UVA Center for Engineering in Medicine - News Briefs

    NPR Podcast: Virginia LaBaron

    March 19, 2021

    The University of Virginia has won a $3.4 million grant to study pain. The goal is to predict when it will become a problem, and to treat it before this difficult part of illness takes a toll on quality of life for patients and caregivers. 

    “Our environmental sensors are collecting data regarding things such as light and noise and barometric pressure and temperature," LeBaron explains.  "When pain events occur we then have this snapshot of the larger context around those events.”

    Listen to UVA's  Virginia LaBaron



    What’s your IEQ?

    March 16, 2021

    Arsalan Heydarian, left, and Laura Barnes

    Find out how UVA engineers and clinicians are using ‘Indoor Environmental Quality’ sensors to try to improve patients’ sleep and recovery

    Arsalan Heydarian and Laura Barnes, an assistant professor and an associate professor in the Department of Engineering Systems and Environment at the University of Virginia’s School of Engineering, Dr. Gabrielle Marzani, an associate professor of psychiatric medicine at UVA’s School of Medicine, and Meghan Mattos, R.N. and assistant professor at UVA’s School of Nursing in the Department of Acute and Specialty Care, are all collaborating on a research project that investigates the use of indoor environmental quality (IEQ) sensors to measure things like light, temperature, noise and air quality to gain information on the patient experience in hospital rooms. Their goal is to use this data to improve patients’ sleep quality and recovery outcomes.

    “The sensing and environmental monitoring approach is most exciting because this type of monitoring can contextualize the patient and nursing experiences. Collecting longitudinal data of environmental conditions and then connecting it to patient-specific preferences, behaviors, needs and sleep quality is very new research — there are not that many studies in this area. The longitudinal data that we are collecting is very valuable to researchers, room and lighting designers, clinicians and patients,” said Heydarian.

    Funded by a seed grant from the UVA Center for Engineering in Medicine, Heydarian and Barnes, along with their Ph.D. students, Alan Wang, computer engineering, and Navreet Kaur, systems engineering, launched the project last fall by installing sensors in five designated rooms in the 3 East (3E) wing at UVA University Hospital. There were no patients in the rooms, so the sensors were able to collect baseline data of the changes in indoor environmental conditions.

    Before launching this project, Heydarian had developed foundational research using different IEQ sensors and actuators, which make up a cyber-physical system, at the UVA Engineering Link Lab. One of the Link Lab’s research focus areas is smart and connected care. His work was supported by a National Science Foundation grant.

    At the hospital, volunteer patients are now part of the study. They wear a smartwatch device to gather physiological, movement and environmental data that will be sent to researchers wirelessly. The team has also started collecting more granular information about the changes in indoor environmental conditions. All of these data types will be analyzed to better understand the different factors that may impact sleep quality among different patients.

    In addition to quantitative data, team members Lisa Letzkus, R.N., P.N.P., from UVA Health and Cynthia Southard, D.N.P., R.N., from the UVA School of Nursing, along with Mattos and Marzani, conducted a series of interviews with nurses and clinicians in 3E to learn more about the general and specific practices for patient care, environmental conditions across different rooms and other insightful information on patient sleep and comfort. 

    As an outcome of this multidisciplinary collaboration, the team envisions introducing computer models that can be used to predict patients’ comfort in hospitals, and also provide feedback to clinicians on how specific combinations of conditions and practices can enhance patient care and clinical outcomes.