Digital Health Science Digest: Issue 8

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

Telepresence robots at DUSON, research on when SMS works (and when it doesn’t), a health app for hipsters, and more!

The Digital Health Science Digest is a bimonthly newsletter compiled by Duke Digital Health. We bring you the most interesting research publications, policy news, and other fun digital health science stuff.  

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Issue 8



  • DUSON#DukePride! The Duke School of Nursing is using telepresence robots to facilitate distance-based learning. Watch the video! (h/t Ryan Shaw)

  • #LocalPride – A project out of NC State just launched an Indiegogo campaign for Nicotrax, a “smart cigarette case” and accompanying app to help people quit smoking.  

  • #GlobalDigitalHealth – Every1Mobile, operating in Africa, partnered with Facebook’s initiative to increase access to the Internet in South Africa. We especially like the work they’ve done to provide phone-based information via text message about sexual health education and HIV counseling. (h/t Joe Egger)


  • If we may #humblebrag for a second…maybe you’ve heard of the Precision Medicine Initiative? As part of that initiative, the NIH hosted a workshop on July 27 & 28 called “Mobile and Personal Technologies in Precision Medicine.” Our director, Dr. Gary Bennett, attended the workshop and gave a talk on engaging medically vulnerable populations. If you’d like to watch, the workshop video was archived! Gary’s talk starts right at hour 6. 

  • On his birthday (8/4, ICYMI), President Obama hosted the first (ever) White House Demo Day. We especially like Pigeonly, which helps prison inmates stay in touch with families and loved ones and Jerry the bear, a “smart” stuffed animal that helps kids build healthy nutrition, exercise, and sleep behaviors.

  • The ONC awarded almost $40 million in new grants for health information exchange and population health programs, as well as health IT workforce development.


  • On one hand…An integrative review of texting interventions to promote medication adherence found anywhere between 15-18% improvements in the majority of the included studies
  • On the other hand…Researchers in Hong Kong who randomized participants to receive either a nurse call, a series of texts, or usual care, found that the texts had no significant effect above control on 6-month smoking cessation rates.

  • The Pew Research Center recently conducted a study to answer the question, “Is it necessary to reimburse cellphone respondents?” The results were fascinating, and they may be able to inform how we researchers think about reimbursements for technology-based research studies.

  • Researchers at Wake Forest University tested a phone-based CBT intervention among 141 seniors living in rural counties in North Carolina to reduce generalized anxiety disorder and depression and found positive effects. This study further strengthens the case for telemedicine, according to an editorial that was published along with the study results. 


  • Correction: In the last digest, we mentioned i2b2, a new app at UNC that gives researchers access to UNC Health Care data — we mistakenly cited the app as being from the Health Sciences Library at UNC, but it was developed by the NC TraCS Institute, not the library. Our apologies! 

  • Rocky Mountain Health Plans in Colorado has created a new app called MyDigitalMD and is promoting it to a very special sector of newly insured – hipsters! If you ride a fixie, have a beard you can comb, and/or wear thick-rimmed glasses, healthcare via this app is for you! But you’ve also probably been using it since before it was cool 😉

  • A new cookbook, “Good and Cheap” is written specifically for people who receive SNAP benefits. The PDF version is free to download, and a recent Kickstarter campaign helped the author, Leanne Brown,raise $145,000 to print copies for people without computers. We’re going to give it to our weight loss study participants, especially since we have it on good authority (aka our Staff Specialist, Hallie) that the recipes are delicious!

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