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Mobile Mini Clinic: Stevens Institute of Technology Professor To Develop A Smartphone App That Reports A Patient's Vitals


1/17/2014 11:05:34 AM

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January 17, 2014 -- A pragmatic healthcare app that could help save lives that is being developed by Stevens Professor Yingying Chen is the latest example of how Stevens is helping New Jersey lead the way in new mobile 'app' development.

Dr. Chen, an associate professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and director of Stevens' Data Analysis and Information Security (DAISY) lab, recently secured a grant from the National Science Foundation that could transform the way we monitor health — particularly for the elderly, children, those on the autism spectrum and others who may be less likely to report new health issues to family and doctors.

Chen came to the task with plenty of mobile-technology experience: she recently developed a new technology that senses which mobile device belongs to the driver of an automobile, for instance. The technology could potentially be incorporated into safety features to block some of a driver's distracting mobile phone capabilities while preserving the freedom for passengers to continue fully using their devices.

To tackle the healthcare problem, Chen began by polling doctors and colleagues in medical technology, who explained that current healthcare apps don't work especially well, for one simple reason: many users — you, me, our grandparents and children — must hand-enter all their own data.

"Many of us don't have time, or simply forget, to type in records of our meals, exercise, medications and so on," explains Chen. "Others are intimidated by smart phones. I knew something simpler and more automated needed to be created."

Working with Stevens graduate students, she developed a new method of utilizing smartphones' multiple sensors — which include motion sensors and gyroscopes, in addition the phones' built-in cameras and microphones — in concert with easy-to-wear wristbands that passively monitor heart rate, activity and body temperature.

The system her team is developing, SENSCOPS (smartphone-enabled social and physical compass system), reports the patient's vitals wirelessly to central servers at regular intervals via a simple mobile phone app.

The implications are enormous: software on the server side could be built by the healthcare industry to analyze this data and send regular updates to medical professionals, collecting and confirming routine medical information (vital signs, emotional and physiological response to medications, activity patterns) while also flagging potential emergencies in the making.

A report from the app of a lack of patient motion for an unusually long period of time, for example, might signal SENSCOPS to automatically text-message a nurse, who could call or visit the patient immediately to learn more.

If the system proves viable in the field, the SENSCOPS could be ready for collaboration with medical or insurance industry in as little as a year or two, she adds.

"Dr. Chen’s research in mobile health could improve quality of life for millions," commented Schaefer School of Engineering Dean Michael Bruno, noting that the technology might also help control healthcare costs by proactively improving health and preventing life-threatening, expensive emergencies.

About Stevens Institute of Technology

Stevens Institute of Technology, The Innovation University®, is a premier, private research university situated in Hoboken, N.J. overlooking the Manhattan skyline. Founded in 1870, technological innovation has been the hallmark and legacy of Stevens’ education and research programs for more than 140 years. Within the university’s three schools and one college, more than 6,100 undergraduate and graduate students collaborate with more than 350 faculty members in an interdisciplinary, student-centric, entrepreneurial environment to advance the frontiers of science and leverage technology to confront global challenges. Stevens is home to three national research centers of excellence, as well as joint research programs focused on critical industries such as healthcare, energy, finance, defense and STEM education and coastal sustainability. The university is consistently ranked among the nation’s elite for return on investment for students, career services programs and mid-career salaries of alumni. Stevens is in the midst of a 10-year strategic plan, The Future. Ours to Create., designed to further extend the Stevens legacy to create a forward-looking and far-reaching institution with global impact.

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