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Developing devices to remotely monitor patient health with wearable tech

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Posted at 5:39 PM, Jul 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-19 09:25:19-04

TUCSON, Ariz. — Wearable technology has become increasingly popular over the years. They can measure sleep, heart rate, calories burned, and steps, but that data can’t really be used by medical professionals.

“You definitely have some high-quality devices and you also have some devices you need to have a little bit more improvement to reach to the level that we would like to see,” said Janet Roveda, a UArizona electrical computer engineering professor.

“It's moving it, I think, to a consumer technology to a medical-grade technology,” said Kathleen Melde, the UArizona College of Engineering associate dean.

Melde and Roveda, who is the lead, are a part of a multi-institution center to develop clinically valid ways of gathering patient data from wearable tech. They say this will ultimately lead to physicians being able to use that data and provide remote care. Something that is even more prevalent in today’s pandemic times.

“We’ve seen that telehealth works and telehealth is effective. This is a perfect time, so to be able to transform these technologies to allow greater access to health care,” said Melde.

It's all about making new generations of low-cost sensors with updated data analysis, that will allow doctors to accurately track patient data. But education is another aspect of the center’s focus.

“We also need to train the patient, because wearable sensors - if you’re not wearing it correctly - you’re not going to get the quality data anyway,” said Roveda.

The center includes UArizona, Baylor College of Medicine, USC, and Cal-Tech. The center was granted $3M from the National Science Foundation; more than $1M of that will go to UArizona.

“It is a partnership between the research community and the companies that will actually be making these technologies. And that’s what’s so special about it because all of the researchers involved will be very close to being able to see their technology be translated into usable products,” said Melde.

The center is in phase one a five-year period, and after that phase two will be another five. Over the years, Roveda and Melde say they will be adding more research teams and companies.