Wireless Health

Cancer and Moblie Health

Leveraging mHealth and Wireless Sensing to Empower Patients and Family Caregivers in the Safe and Effective Management of Cancer Pain

VIRGINIA LEBARON, Asst. Prof. Nursing (SON), JOHN LACH, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), LESLIE BLACKHALL, Prof., Medicine – General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine (SOM)

Despite many years of ongoing efforts to improve pain management, pain remains a significant problem with cancer care – patients fear dying in pain and family caregivers fear watching their love ones suffer. Poorly managed cancer pain can negatively affect sleep, treatment adherence, mood and quality of life for both the patient and their caregivers. Medications used to control cancer pain are also at the center of the well-publicized national opioid epidemic, creating uncertainty about when and how to use them. Therefore, it is essential for patients and their caregivers to have the support and tools they need to safely and effectively manage pain at home. 

In this project, collaborators from the UVA School of Nursing, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Division of General, Geriatric, Palliative & Hospital Medicine will use in-home mobile, wireless sensing technology developed at UVA to better understand the behavioral and environmental factors that predict pain in cancer patients and their caregivers’ experience of burden. The study will include patient and family caregivers for input in the design of the solution as well as in the deployment and data collection phases. This project will also promote cross-pollination of ideas among UVA’s Schools of Nursing, Medicine, and Engineering by embedding an engineering graduate student in the UVA Cancer Center and a nursing graduate student in a research laboratory in Electrical and Computer Engineering.

Using Mobile Technology to Monitor and Treat Depression and Anxiety Symptoms in Caregivers of Cancer Patients

PHILLIP CHOW, Asst. Prof. Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences (SOM), MATT GERBER, Asst. Prof. Systems and Information Engineering (SEAS), SHAYNA SHOWALTER, Asst. Prof., Surgery (SOM), WENDY COHN, Assoc. Prof., Public Health Sciences (SOM)
Cancer affects not only patients, but also those who care for them, including relatives, friends, and partners. Remarkably, cancer caregivers have higher levels of depression and anxiety than the patients they care for, yet their distress is less widely recognized and seldom addressed. This project builds on recent evidence that brief interventions delivered by smartphone can help improve depression and anxiety.
Collaborators from the UVA Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, Department of Surgery, Department of Public Health Sciences and Department of Systems and Information Engineering have developed smartphone-based methods for monitoring mental distress. In partnership with the UVA Cancer Center, they will connect this work with state-of-the art smartphone interventions adapted for cancer caregivers.


Pain Management

A Novel Analgesic Device for Pain Management

XUDONG (JOSH) LI, Assoc. Prof. Orthopaedic Surgery (SOM), BAOXING XU, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS)

Pain management is an area of high national importance, as adequately managed postoperative pain not only improves patient satisfaction and quality of life, but it helps with earlier mobilization after procedures, shortens hospital stays and reduces costs. Unfortunately, the widespread use of opioid-based drugs for treatment of acute or chronic pain associated with injuries and surgeries has led to a staggering rise in opioid abuse and opioid-related deaths.

This partnership between the UVA Department of Orthopedic Surgery and Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering will develop and test high-tech drug delivery patches that can be applied to the skin to deliver medications locally at the site of pain rather than systemically, reducing the potential for side effects and addiction. This work builds on expertise at UVA in designing ultra-thin, flexible sensors and circuits that can be applied directly to the skin.

Respiratory Monitoring

Airflow-powered Implantables for Batteryless Monitoring of Respiratory Health

DANIEL QUINN, Asst. Prof. Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering (SEAS), JOHN LACH, Prof. Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), LARRY BORISH, Prof., Medicine – Asthma, Allergy & Immunology (SOM)

One of the biggest challenges of treating patients with asthma is in identifying an exacerbation before an Emergency Department visit or hospitalization is required. About 5% of asthmatic patients have frequent and severe exacerbations, which feel like sudden chest tightness and sometimes lead to respiratory arrest. Most early detection mechanisms require supervised monitoring in a controlled setting or with bulky instruments. This project proposes to explore the feasibility of an implanted sensor to internally monitor airflow in asthmatics.  

The collaborators from UVA’s Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, and UVA’s Division of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology will explore the mechanical, electrical and clinical questions around an implanted sensor that would both sense airflow in the trachea (the large airway that connects the lungs to the mouth and nose) and harvest energy from that airflow so that no batteries are required.

Quantitative Analysis of Breathing Motion Signals for High-impact Respiratory Monitoring

Shrirang Gadrey, Asst. Prof, Medicine – Geriatrics & Palliative Care (SOM), Ronald Williams, Assoc. Prof, Electrical and Computer Engineering (SEAS), Younghoon Kwon, Asst. Prof, Medicine – Cardiovascular (SOM)

Respiratory failure commonly complicates hospitalizations because many types of illnesses can affect breathing directly or indirectly. Once respiratory failure is severe enough to require a ventilator, hospital stays are longer and outcomes are poor. Therefore, early detection and prompt treatment of respiratory failure could benefit many patients. This team from the Department of Hospital Medicine, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine and Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering are employing an array of motion sensors on the torso of hospitalized patients to detect increased work of breathing as an early indicator of worsening respiratory status. Ultimately, they aim to use motion-based metrics along with existing metrics (blood oxygen levels and respiratory rate) to build a predictive model that can detect problems and trigger treatments earlier than current models and improve patient outcomes.

Telemedicine for Treatment Adherence

Adherence to Medical Treatments for Telemedicine Patients

John Stankovic, Professor, Computer Sciences (SEAS), Karen Rheuban, Professor, Pediatrics (SOM)

Many of the most important aspects of medical care occur at home. Correctly diagnosing an illness only results in effective treatment if patients are able to take their medicines at the right times, perform their exercises, and get advice and support when they need it. The UVA Center for Telehealth has long been a leader in helping patients connect with medical experts regardless of geographic barriers, and in particular, for those facing serious health disparities. Now, new technologies promise to extend that support to patients at home, every day.

Through the use of a smart watch and iPad in the home, researchers from the UVA Department of Computer Science, Department of Neurology and UVA Center for Telehealth will study how deployment of wearable sensors can be used to assess activities of daily living for stroke patients, track and improve exercise and medication adherence, and otherwise support recovery at home.


Diagnosing Impaired Olfaction

Developing Compliant, Elastic Sensors for Spatial Mapping of Odor-evoked Response Potentials at Human Olfactory Epithelium

Jose Mattos, Assist. Prof, Otolaryngology (SOM), Liheng Cai, Asst. Prof, Materials Science & Chemical Engineering (SEAS)

The human sense of smell, or olfaction, is one of our five critical senses, and yet 13.5% of the US population has impaired olfaction. Particularly among the elderly, dysfunctional sense of smell can lead to lower food intake, safety risks and decrease in personal hygiene. Affected individuals exhibit double to triple the magnitude of depressive symptoms, and are three times more likely to die within five years than those with a normal sense of smell. A research partnership between the UVA Department of Otolaryngology and Department of Materials Science & Chemical Engineering aims to develop better, more objective techniques for diagnosing and understanding impaired olfaction, using small, elastic sensors to directly measure odor-evoked nerve activity.