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06.17.11 - Igniting eHealth Technology

Calit2’s new eHealth Collaboratory, located on the third floor of the Calit2 Building, gives researchers from many disciplines a place to share ideas, learn from each other and demonstrate their healthcare prototypes. This month, the debut of the institute’s latest multidisciplinary center kicked off the sixth year of Calit2’s successful Igniting Technology series.
Panelists, including two researchers, a physician, a healthcare innovator and a marketing professional, shared their insight into the evolving field of eHealth, which leverages technology to create a new healthcare-delivery paradigm. After the presentation, visitors toured the Collaboratory and saw its potential firsthand.
Calit2 Irvine division director G.P. Li briefly explained the Collaboratory’s vision and goals, stating that the institute hopes to develop, demonstrate and deploy technology solutions for applications in health and wellness through collaborative multidisciplinary research, with an emphasis on empowering people. “This is not about inventing new gadgets or fun toys,” he said. “It is about developing solutions by taking an integrated approach.”


Panelists (from left): Reinkensmeyer, Russell, Lott, McCray and Gurbaxani answer questions from the audience.

Moderator for the June 2 event was Gerard von Hoffmann, a partner in the Orange County office of event sponsor Knobbe Martens Olson and Bear. von Hoffmann, who specializes in the medical device industry, urged device designers to protect their intellectual property “because if you can’t protect devices you can’t fund them. And if you can’t fund them, they will never get to the marketplace to help patients.”

It’s important, he said, to patent not only the completed device but individual parts as well as combinations of the system, including sub assemblies, assemblies and method patents to the overall system. “You’ve got to have a way to block the competition from entering the competitive marketplace.”

Panelist David Reinkensmeyer, engineering professor and iMove Center director, envisioned the future of rehabilitation exercise and movement training through a first-person fictionalized account of himself at age 70 after suffering a stroke. He demonstrated how robotic devices and information technology will be used to stimulate limbs and blood-flow reorganization, rewire the brain, record patients’ progress and devise personalized recovery protocols. “The eHealth Collaboratory at Calit2 is a key collaborative space for this work,” he said.

Dancers, musicians and other performing artists have the highest injury rate of all physically active people, which is why Jeff Russell, dance medicine professor and director of the SHAPe (Science and Health in Artistic Performance) lab, focuses his research on balance, sensing and motion-capture tools for movement analysis, mobility therapy and rehabilitation.

Graduate student researcher Mark Merlo (right)
demonstrates a BAT (bionic and assistive technologies)
application to a visitor in the eHealth Collaboratory .

He has used MRI to examine the feet of ballet dancers standing on point, worked on developing an insole for tap shoes that provides information on stress and the musculoskeletal system, and designed an application for a motion-capture system that can calculate movement velocity, forces, joint-movement angles and more. “If you understand movement under certain conditions you can train people in a better way that will help them reduce incidence of injury,” he explained, adding that many of the applications can be adapted to assist other populations, like the elderly.

Dr. Ira Lott, a pediatric neurologist and head of UCI’s telemedicine program, first became interested in telemedicine technology about 10 years ago when he realized that a large number of his patients didn’t have local access to specialty medical care. Today, UCI physicians have conducted 2,100 telemedicine clinics and 8,400 consults, and the university is working closely with the California Center for Connected Health and the California Teleheath Network to connect more than 800 statewide rural clinics to a UC Medical Center.

Technology strategy should have three objectives, he told the audience: to integrate technologies so they can work well together; to utilize consumer and IT-based standards that are already on the market; and most importantly, to simplify the human interface. “Patients need to be able to turn it on, make it work and not require an advanced understanding of computers.”

eHealth and telemedicine applications also need to address user mismatch, system maintenance costs, privacy issues, a legal framework and insufficient data on outcomes, Lott said.  Success, he continued, will require the melding of technology, doctors, industry, capital, law and business expertise. “Where but in a research-based university can we find all these components?”

Dr. Hamid Djalilian (left) shows off his EarTrumpet
application, a personalized downloadable hearing aid.

Rob McCray, head of the Wireless Life Sciences Alliance, seeks to accelerate innovation in wireless health and improve access to healthcare. His advice: begin by identifying an existing problem. Healthcare purchasers “don’t want devices or parts of solutions, they want a problem solved,” he said.

McCray shared examples of three successful companies that are doing exactly that: Dexcom, a continuous glucose-monitoring company; Neurovigil, a firm that developed a simple method for analyzing brain activity; and Duo Fertility, a wireless device technology that helps women identify their most fertile moments.

He also urged researchers to consider increasing access to care and lowering its cost. Cellular technology can be utilized to access the “biggest distribution network ever created,” he said.

In summary, he advised researchers to turn a generic, inexpensive consumer device into a valuable service or product for healthcare. “Because if you can do that, it’s much less capital-intensive,” he said. “And investors love capital-efficient businesses.”

Left: a dancer wearing reflective markers demonstrates motion-capture data collection.
Right: undergraduate Alison Ozaki explains the tap shoe insole.

Information systems and computer science professor Vijay Gurbaxani, who also serves as director of UCI’s Center for Research on IT and Organizations (CRITO), discussed maximizing the return on technology investment. Specifically, he referred to general purpose technology – electricity and IT for example – which is broader in scope than specific technology – and leads to increasing returns. “That is the real power of these technologies,” he said. An example: the iPhone, which continues to increase in value with each new application.

The communications infrastructure and “the cloud,” two technologies that are particularly complementary, are vital to success of connected products. “One without the other … is meaningless,” he said, urging researchers to leverage this infrastructure as they bring their products to market. In addition, innovators must be mindful of the entire industry ecosystem. “A lot of companies have failed because they haven’t thought about [this]. If you don’t take into account the industry structure you won’t be successful.” Other factors to consider: incentives, existing payment mechanisms, what is driving the players and finally, “can you actually change the behavior of so many different players in this ecosystem?”

ACE graduate student David Resnick uses electromagnets and custom software
to see in real time how his subject's nervous system reacts to the motion of his hands.

After the presentations concluded, the audience engaged the panelists in a lively question-and-answer session. Dinner, networking and eHealth Collaboratory demonstrations followed, including the resonating arm exerciser, music glove, econodes, wimplifier, EarTrumpet,, Telios, balance, sensing, motion-capture tools and more.

Also on display in the Atrium was “ACE2011: Electromotive,” an interactive exhibit featuring the projects of two ACE (Arts Computation Engineering) graduate students. Eric Mesple combined real-time video interpolation, microprocessors and electromagnets to illustrate interactivity between humans and electro-mechanical objects in “Ferreflection.”

"Pulse," by David Resnick, explored the health effects of expanded consciousness using electromagnets, custom software, audio oscillators and an EKG machine.

-- Anna Lynn Spitzer

Event Video

PowerPoint presentations

Gerard von Hoffmann
David Reinkensmeyer
Jeff Russell
Dr. Ira Lott
Rob McCray
Vijay Gurbaxani