New Research Center Using Smart, Connected Technology

Jing Wang, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., RN, FAAN, recently opened the Center on Smart and Connected Health Technologies. The center’s connected clinic is located in the school’s Center for Simulation Innovation.

Research To Improve Care of Elderly, Adults with Chronic Diseases

As the School of Nursing celebrates its 50th anniversary, a new technology-based research center is poised to improve patients’ overall health and well-being through the use of smart and connected electronic devices.

Jing Wang, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., RN, FAAN, arrived on campus May 2018 to assume the role of vice dean for research for the School of Nursing and to create and lead the Center on Smart and Connected Health Technologies. Dr. Wang brings a wealth of expertise on the use of health care technology to interprofessional research, education and clinical practice from her work at UTHealth in Houston, where she received multiple honors and awards and directed the Center of Excellence in Mobile and Connected Health in the UTHealth Consortium on Aging.

The new center, which opened spring 2019, provides a comprehensive approach to collaborating, testing and integrating innovative health solutions to advance the implementation of smart and connected clinical care and smart and connected home health care.

“We will be providing to nurses, doctors, researchers, the scientific community and the public access to resources that have not been available before now,” Dr. Wang said. “We will work together to better design, develop and deploy technology for primary care and for seniors who want to remain in their own homes.”

THOSE RESOUCES INCLUDE:

  • A Training and Simulation Center offering interprofessional educational programs on connected health and telehealth technologies for students, trainees and clinicians.
  • A Data and Digital Innovation Lab providing researchers a location to (1) develop and pilot test new connected technology solutions in advance of testing them in clinical or home care settings, and (2) use large data from electronic health records and connected health devices to answer clinical questions.
  • The South Texas Connected Health Living Lab offering a large repository of data from mobile, wearable and remote monitoring devices. Through community engagement efforts, they will recruit individuals—including adults with chronic conditions, seniors aging in place (elderly who want to remain in their homes as long as possible), and adults who speak and understand diverse languages—to share de-identified data and participate in real world testing of innovative connected health solutions.
  • A Clinical Collaborative is being developed with clinical partners to build authentic relationships among patients, researchers and clinicians to enable the development and clinical testing of connected health solutions. The goal is to engage the end users as partners to design, develop and deploy technological solutions that supports clinicians’ workflow and direct integration of patient-generated health data into electronic health records.

Dr. Wang, holder of the Hugh Roy Cullen Professorship in Nursing, said she is excited that the center’s work is all interprofessional—even its creation and funding are based on such collaboration.

“UT Health San Antonio’s Long School of Medicine, the School of Nursing, and the President’s office made this happen. I’m thrilled the president and deans are supportive of this research. And, I was really impressed with the interprofessional collaboration occurring throughout campus,” she said.

“We are at an exciting time. I see a lot of places where we can develop better products and better train our students. We can improve patients’ health through these innovations.”

—Jing Wang, Ph.D., M.P.H., M.S.N., RN, FAAN

Dr. Wang will be working with colleagues throughout the university to develop new methods of using technology to improve the health of patients, especially those with type 2 diabetes and who are obese.

With the increased use of mobile phones and electronic monitoring devices by all ages of patients, this is the perfect time for this research to be done, she said. “Before there was such technology, nurses and doctors understood the challenges of getting patients to change eating and lifestyle behaviors as a means of improving health.

Asking or telling them to change doesn’t work. We saw that self- monitoring empowers patients. Now they can use an electronic or digital device to easily monitor the effects of lifestyle changes.”

Technology is a tool that also allows clinicians to be connected to patients. Wearable technology, such as smart watches or fitness monitors, can provide that connectivity, she said. “We must develop a system that will help doctors, and not one that will give them too much data. We don’t want to hinder their ability to connect personally with the patient.

“We are trying to figure out how to deliver relevant, actionable data to physicians, nurses and other health professionals so they can give their response back to their patients,” Dr. Wang said.

She said another main area of this research will involve the smart and connected home, especially for seniors who want to “age in place,” which means they want to stay in their own homes as long as they can. “We want to figure out how to keep them safe while living at home. Not everyone will want to wear a device. Can we do sensors in the home? This research can show what works better for our elderly.”

The smart and connected clinic is in the school’s Center for Simulation Innovation. “We have created a connected clinic so the next generation of health care providers can be trained,” she said.

Dr. Wang said it takes an average of 17 years to take research into practice. “We are trying to figure out how we can translate the knowledge gained in this collaborated research to speed up the process. The digital industry is growing rapidly. We need to capitalize on this and train today’s students. We also need to work with digital health companies. The next generation of digital health devices needs to have our interprofessional input,” she explained.

All the applications being created must have academicians and clinicians involved. “We know the patients’ needs. We must do the research to make sure these devices help patients and their health care providers.

“We are at an exciting time. I see a lot of places where we can develop better products and better train our students. We can improve patients’ health through these innovations.”


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In the 2019 issue of Tribute

Tribute is the official magazine for the alumni and friends of the School of Nursing at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. Read and share inspiring stories highlighting our alumni, faculty and students who are revolutionizing education, research, patient care and critical services in the communities they serve.

View the 2019 issue

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