NIH’s mobile research program along with other major technology projects is rapidly growing, according to Francis S. Collins, M.D, PhD, Director of NIH, a keynote speaker at the mHealth Summit on November 8th, In FY 2009, $36 million was spent on researching telehealth capabilities and $36 million was allotted to mobile phone research.
He discussed how NIH’s Genes, Environment, and Health Initiative (GEI) at www.gei.nih.gov plays an important role in developing new technologies for bridging the knowledge gap between environmental exposures and human diseases.
The GEI Initiative in their Exposure Biology Program enables scientists, bioengineers, and others to work on innovative projects. For example, wearable chemical sensors are being used to determine personal chemical exposure with units designed to have extensive user interfaces and provide immediate feedback. The wearable sensor units are relatively non-obtrusive so that they can be used in vulnerable populations such as with children. Sensors were used in the Gulf Oil spill to map contaminants in the Gulf.
Tools are being developed to measure physical activity type, duration, and intensity using sensor-enabled mobile phones. The phone may provide real-time feedback of patterns of activity for the general population. The system uses video cameras microphones and GPS to capture videos and images.
In another project, GEI is working on a lens free microscope to use for surveillance to diagnose infectious diseases in resource-limited settings. Cell phones can transmit images and then computer software automatically is able to interpret the images from remote sites.
Researchers have developed technology to help HIV patients monitor the medications that need to take to treat HIV. Doctors are now able to monitor the patient’s medications in real-time to determine if their HIV patients are adhering to medications. This is simply done by using a pill holder that sends signals whenever the pill box is opened.