Scope expands for national personal health technology project

Research advances from home health monitoring devices to use of data based on daily observation.

By Pamela Lewis Dolan — Posted May 26, 2009

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Project HealthDesign, a national program aimed at developing new personal health applications for people with chronic diseases, was awarded an additional $5.3 million to expand the project's scope and continue it through 2012.

The project was launched in 2006 with a $4.7 million grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Pioneer Portfolio, which funds what it believes to be innovative projects in the health care field, and the California Healthcare Foundation. The first part of the initiative awarded grants to nine multidisciplinary teams that developed tools targeting specific patient populations that would monitor or control certain aspects of their health. For example, one project was a cell-phone-enabled medication management system to remind children with cystic fibrosis to take medications.

The first round of tools was unveiled last September at an event in Washington, D.C., that attracted more than 200 health IT professionals.

During the second phase of the project, five teams are to be awarded up to $500,000 each to demonstrate how data on observations of daily living such as sleep, diet, stress levels and more, can be recorded by electronic devices and then sent to caregivers to be analyzed and used to improve patients' health.

Linda Brei, the project's spokeswoman, said teams in the second phase will work with physician practices and health care facilities to demonstrate the value of these observations in association with a clinical care setting.

At May's WTN Media Digital Healthcare Conference 2009, held in Madison, Wis., where the project is based, Patricia Flatley Brennan, RN, PhD, national program director, said data traditionally not considered health data, such as home environment observations, are relevant to patient care.

"You can't just sell health by having cool tools," she said. "We must have a better understanding of daily lives."

The problem, she said, is that no one will keep a personal health diary for more than two days. The tools will be unobtrusive to the patients' daily lives but will collect important observations that can, among other things, make it possible for elderly patients to live on their own instead of in an assisted-care environment.

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