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RWJF Announces Results from Patient Engagement Grantees

September 25, 2012
by Gabriel Perna
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The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has announced five research teams that, according to the nonprofit organization, “have demonstrated clear potential for improving health care delivery and outcomes – as well as patient engagement – through the use of personal technology.” The research teams were a part of RWJF’s Project HealthDesign program, which saw patients from around the nation use technologies such as smart phone apps, sensors, iPads and others to collect information from their daily lives to share with healthcare providers to see if clinical care could be enhanced.

The initiative’s hypothesis is based on ‘observations of daily living’ (ODLs), which are the feelings, thoughts, behaviors, and environmental factors that give people clues about their health. The feeling from RWJF is that they can be applied to the clinical setting to improve care. ODLs studied in Project HealthDesign include mood and pain levels, eating habits, ‘fussiness’ of infants and other things that people notice each day as they go about their lives.

“The true value of personal health technology is not just to track one’s health information. It’s to make the data that are collected far more meaningful to patients and actionable to their providers,” Stephen J. Downs, chief technology and information officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, said in a statement. “Project HealthDesign shows that when you make it easy for people to capture information from their lives and share it with clinicians, they feel empowered to take a more active role in their health – and this engagement can lead to better outcomes.”

The five teams grantees include:

  •     BreathEasy: Led by a team at RTI International and Virginia Commonwealth University, worked with people with asthma and found that tracking ODLs helped patients better manage their symptoms and – working in collaboration with their providers – reduce the incidence of asthma attacks.
  •    Chronology.MD:Led by a team at University of California-Berkeley, the Healthy Communities Foundation and University of California-San Francisco, worked with Crohn’s disease patients. By sharing their ODL data, patients helped clinicians readily identify the disease’s triggers, significantly reducing the discomfort that accompanies this chronic condition.
  •     dwellSense:Led by a team at Carnegie Mellon University, worked with senior adults at risk of cognitive decline using sensors to track their ability to successfully complete daily tasks. The team demonstrated that sensors can be used to effectively monitor ODLs, even among low-tech populations, and alert them and their medical providers to decline.
  •      Estrellita: Led by a team at the University of California-Irvine, monitored pre-term infants by working with their caregivers, and showed that collecting ODLs helped hard-to-reach populations stay more engaged in their care while enabling their providers to be alerted to changes in their health.
  •      iN Touch:Led by a team at San Francisco State University, worked with teens struggling with obesity and depression, and found that tracking ODLs helped patients become significantly more engaged in their health and motivated to minimize unhealthy behaviors.
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