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Stanford Creates Center to Link Faculty, Digital Health Companies

January 18, 2017
by David Raths
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Center for Digital Health to promote partnerships, perform clinical research, provide educational resources
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The Stanford University School of Medicine has launched a center to support collaborations between Stanford faculty and Silicon Valley technology companies focusing on digital health tools.

The Center for Digital Health aims to advance the field of digital health by promoting these partnerships, performing clinical research and educating the next generation of physicians and digital healthcare leaders.

“Digital health is a space where Stanford should be leading the way,” said Sumbul Desai, M.D., clinical associate professor of medicine and executive director of the center, in a prepared statement. “The new center will be focused on leveraging our resources and encouraging collaborations that will lead to better health care through digital technology.”

The center grew out of a need to provide support and guidance to faculty who were repeatedly being contacted by both startups and established technology companies with offers to collaborate, Desai said.  “We can help connect interested faculty with industry, or vice versa. Say, for example, there’s a faculty member interested in pulmonary digital health research. We may know a company with the same interest. We can help connect them.”

Mintu Turakhia, M.D., assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and senior director of research and innovation at the center noted that  there are hundreds of digital health startups, and it is very difficult for patients, doctors, hospitals, insurers, regulators and investors to know which solutions will work and which will stick. He said high-quality evidence is needed to make informed decisions.

Turakhia leads efforts to advance research in digital health at Stanford that ranges from technology assessments and implementation studies to multicenter trials. He is the principal investigator for five digital health trials. The largest of these is a 25-site, 400-patient randomized trial to test digital interventions combined with health coaches to determine whether they improve medication adherence for people with atrial fibrillation, which affects 4 million U.S. adults.

The center will provide training to physicians in digital health medicine at Stanford through fellowships, internship opportunities, conferences and traditional classroom material, Desai said. In addition, the center will offer educational programs to industry members.

The center is also accepting proposals for healthcare research projects focused on innovative uses for Apple Watches. In addition to providing up to 1,000 of the watches, the center will award $10,000 to the winning project for one year, starting in April.

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