Digital Health Science Digest: Issue 15

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

New app directly integrates wearables data into an EHR, different populations may have different data visualization needs, and the FDA wants to hear from you about digital health!

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 15



  • #globaldigitalhealth – Lifetrack, a startup based in the Philippines, is helping connect radiologists to patients via “tele-radiology.” As this article points out, people all around the world are living long enough to develop diseases and conditions that require radiology for diagnosis (cancer, cardiac conditions, etc). Duke-NUS is collaborating with Lifetrack to train the next generation of radiologists to use this technology. 
  • On one hand….Results from a recent Rock Health survey on Digital Health Consumer Adoption among 4,000 internet-connected US adults predict that the three fastest growing health markets are wearables, telemedicine, and health tracking via phone. Currently, only 8% of those surveyed track weight via an app, and 35% still report tracking “in his/her head.”
  • The MyCarolinas Tracker app can link data from over 25 health trackers, 7 blood pressure cuffs, and 3 pulse oximeters, directly to the Canopy EHR system used by Carolinas HealthCare System. 


  • You say, research, we say usability testing. Four promotoras (community health workers) in California were interviewed after using a Fitbit One for a month. Their feedback indicated that wearables could be motivational and helpful for their clients (Latinos living in low-income communities), but only with “thorough training” and more appropriate data visualization (i.e., design that takes literacy and numeracy barriers into account).
  • The CITY (Cell Phone Intervention for You) intervention, conducted by Duke researchers, compared 1) a weight loss behavior change app to 2) the app + coaching, to 3) control. Participants were overweight or obese young adults (18-35). Across 6, 12, and 24 months the app + coaching group had the greatest weight loss, but at the end of 2 years, there were no significant differences in weight loss among the treatment groups. This intervention didn’t lead to weight loss in this population, but it doesn’t mean that no apps will ever work. One takeaway, though, is to find a way of testing apps that strikes a balance between commercial apps, the majority of which are not evidence-based, but can be redesigned to adapt to users’ behavior, and research-developed apps, which are evidence-based, but have no freedom to adapt. 


  • The Undiagnosed Disease Program at the NIH recently started the Undiagnosed Disease Network (UDN), which links databases between the UDP and 6 partner institutions. This network will allow the NIH to analyze combined datasets, and leverage machine learning to look for data patterns. Interestingly, all the UDN sties have agreed to share patient data, including patient names. It’s been dubbed the “Cloud Hospital,” but it holds real-world potential. 


  • ResearchKit is not just for Apple anymore! ResearchStack, a new software framework for Google’s Android phones, was announced on Thursday. As Deborah Estrin, a researcher at Cornell and co-founder of Open mHealth, said, “You can’t just do research studies on people who can afford iPhones.”

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