Digital Health Science Digest – Issue 38

Posted | Posted in Digital Health Science Digest

A new app tells you where flu is, new insight into why patient portal use differs between racial/ethnic groups, and more in this week’s digest! 

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 38



Meet Axon, a new system that enables researchers to design ResearchKit apps without having to work with a developer – think SurveyMonkey, but for ResearchKit apps. 

sickdogIt is officially flu season, and you know what that means – a new app…? GlaxoSmithKline, the Weather Company, and Sickweather (a crowd-sourced illness map that integrates data from social media reports and weather maps) have teamed up to build an app that tracks real-time trends in cold and flu outbreaks. So the next time you’re feeling under-the-weather, tell social media! Your data could help keep other people well. 

Your iPhone may soon be the home for all of your medical information. Apple recently acquired an electronic health record centralization startup, and is making updates to the Apple Watch. Add this to the HealthKit and ResearchKit platforms, and it’s not hard to envision a world in which your phone will be the single source of truth for your medical history. 


Wearables may not help young adults lose weight, but could they help stroke survivors regain lower lim ambulation? A systematic review assessed the effectiveness of lower limb wearable technology for improving activity in adult stroke survivors. Only one RCT out of 11 found significant findings, though the authors note that many of the studies had small sample sizes, a lack of appropriate analyses, and varied stroke severity.

Use of electronic health record patient portals differs by racial/ethnic group. A qualitative study among 87 African American and Latino Kaiser Permanente members across the country sought to understand why. Findings suggest a barrier unrelated to technology: patients fear losing their existing relationships with health care providers, and this fear leads to a reluctance to use the portal. 

A survey among gay and bixexual men aimed to assess willingness to take PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis), as well as previous experience having taken it. Men were recruited via multiple online sources (e.g., Facebook, listservs, a hookup website, etc). Source of recruitment was not associated with willingness to start PrEP, though it was associated with experience having taken PrEP. Willingness to go on PrEP was associated with being younger, single, a person of color, and having been tested for HIV in the past year.


Hometeam, a company that uses mobile tech to provide home-based healthcare to seniors recently secured Medicaid reimbursement in NYC. Hometeam helps patients and caregivers coordinate activities, update family members about progress, and keep track of medications using iPads.

The NIH has announced the formal designation of sexual and gender minorities as a health disparity population for NIH research. As reported by the Director of the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities, “research shows that sexual and gender minorities who live in communities with anti-SGM prejudice die sooner – 12 years on average – than those living in more accepting communities.”

Grab bag

duke-innovation-centerDIHI has announced the next funding cycle for demonstration pilots in healthcare innovation. DIHI is specifically interested in: population health and analytics; novel patient interactions (engagement, education, and experience); team-based and new care models; optimizing patient flow; and preventing burnout and building resilience. Applications are due November 7, 2016.






Upcoming Events

Introduce a Girl to Photonics: Exploring Light Technologies
Hosted by the Fitzpatrick Institute for Photonics
Co-sponsors include Duke MEDx
Sunday, 10/9, 1-4pm FCIEMAS Atrium, Duke West Campus
Free and open to the public
More info

Diabetes and Big Data: Why Medical History Matters for Machine Learning
Wednesday, 10/19, 12-1p, Hosted by the Trent Center for Bioethics, Humanities and History of Medicine
Duke Hospital Lecture Hall 2002, Lunch provided
More info

If you’d like to submit an event or article for us to publish in our digest, please send at least 3 weeks before the event to:


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