A Publication of WTVP

A new pilot program employs sensor technologies in patients’ homes.

Imagine being diagnosed with a lung disease that leaves you short of breath. One day, it could be from walking a great distance; another day, it strikes you while having a conversation. Each time, it can leave you in panic, wondering whether that breath will be your last.

A new pilot program using some of the latest sensor technology available is being tested with patients in central Illinois, thanks to a partnership between Jump Trading Simulation & Education Center and Care Innovations, a collaboration of innovative tech giants Intel and General Electric. The big twist: the sensing technology used in the pilot project is being installed in patients’ homes, or is being worn by them.

Better Health Within the Home
At-risk patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are being monitored in their home environment in an effort to improve their treatment beyond the walls of the doctor’s office—and to avoid unnecessary return trips to the hospital.

“The ultimate goal is to achieve better health within the home,” says Paul Pribaz, Jump’s executive director of innovation. “We are helping people take better care of themselves with technology that impacts patient outcomes. This is our vision in motion—a tangible example of the work we do here at Jump and the tremendous opportunity we have to help to transform patient outcomes. This is cutting-edge treatment in healthcare being developed right here in Peoria.”

Maintaining activity and taking medicine as prescribed is critical to treatment for COPD in order to prevent the disease’s progression. COPD is the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming the lives of 134,676 people in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The local project enlists an array of sensor technology and health data collection points. Each day, patients weigh themselves; check their blood pressure, pulse and blood-oxygen levels; and monitor how well air is moving out of their lungs. They also answer questions about how well they are feeling or symptoms they may be experiencing. That information is then collected wirelessly or entered on a tablet that is shared electronically with nurses at OSF Saint Francis Medical Center. A series of sensors placed throughout the home monitors whether patients have taken their medication, and how often they are using the bathroom and getting up in the middle of the night. A “smart” bracelet tracks patient activity.

“The technology allows us to pick up on the patient’s data or signals at the earliest moment, so we can connect with them at that very moment and intervene if need be, in order to increase or bring care to them at the home, versus a patient needing to go to the hospital,” says Dr. Bill Tillis, a pulmonologist and critical care physician with OSF Saint Francis Medical Center at the Illinois Lung & Critical Care Institute.

Dr. Tillis, a clinical associate professor of medicine at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria, is leading the clinical aspects of the study. He says the technology will not only help close the gap on learning what is taking place with patients at home, but also change how healthcare is delivered and even prevent disease progression.

“This disease progresses because of exacerbations, but if we can intervene earlier, we can prevent it from progressing and keep people out of the hospital,” he explains. “What we’re trying to do is transform care by moving the care away from the acute hospital setting back to the home, with the hope that they will not require care in the hospital.”

Information such as how often someone gets out of bed in the middle of the night and whether a patient is regularly taking his or her medications, combined with biometric information like weight and blood pressure, will be compared to data collected during clinical visits.

“We’re bringing these often-disconnected sources of information together for patients,” adds Dr. Tillis. “This gives us a much more complete and accurate picture of a patient’s health, as well as being able to provide the most effective intervention and care plan moving forward.”

An Evolving Research Model
Already, more than 10 patients with COPD have been enrolled; another 20 patients will take part in the pilot, with about 200 patients in all expected to participate over the next year. Jessica Short, Jump’s lead research coordinator, notes that patient response has been positive.

“It’s providing them with peace of mind that someone is monitoring them throughout the day,” she says. “If something happens, they can talk to a nurse right away, instead of wondering whether it’s serious or not, doing nothing, or trying to decide if they should go to the clinic or hospital, even if there is no medical need to do so. Because COPD can leave them short of breath, I think their greatest fear is whether or not that could be their last breath.”

Through Jump, OSF and the University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria are transforming healthcare via education, research and innovation. Since Jump opened its doors nearly two years ago, the research program has expanded significantly. The evolving research model has resulted from increased usability services and collaborations, such as the one with Care Innovations. Jump’s current research portfolio includes more than a dozen active projects and an equal number of additional emerging projects.

“OSF is rooted in providing care to those who need it most. We look forward to testing these new approaches through this endeavor to extend clinical care into the home and to bring more of what’s happening at home into the clinician’s view,” says Dr. John Vozenilek, chief medical officer at Jump. “When we pair with industry and entrepreneurs, we begin to understand how the future of healthcare delivery will look, and we can anticipate ways to incorporate new solutions into our mission.”

This initial project with Care Innovations has already led to new ideas and projects that are being planned, Vozenilek notes. “This is an exciting milestone, as it is a first for our translational research agenda, and the first example of sponsored research we took on here at Jump. We are improving patient experiences and providing cost efficiency in product development. Jump is providing study design services, usability testing, focus groups with clinicians and patients, IT services to help with Electronic Medical Record (EMR) integration, and finally, traditional clinical trials.

“This is going to demonstrate another powerful use for simulation,” he adds. “Currently, there is a belief that it works, but we are looking for data to validate its effectiveness.” iBi