New grant supports commercialization of Amulet ‘BandPass’ technology

SynchroHealth, a startup company launched with technology originating in the Amulet project, recently received a grant of almost $225,000 from the National Institute on Aging (NIA), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). SynchroHealth aims to develop hardware and software solutions for non-invasive detection and acquisition of remote healthcare data. 

Amulet’s Ryan Halter, co-founder of SynchroHealth, says “there’s a huge disparity in what clinicians and physical therapists think goes on in at-home rehabilitation programs and what actually happens. This disconnect […] could ultimately lead to unnecessary interventions that increase costs and potential risks to the patient. We’re aiming to close that gap.”

The current prototype of BandPass, from the SynchroHealth website

SynchroHealth is continuing the development of their ‘BandPass’ technology for the treatment of sarcopenia – loss of muscle mass and strength due to aging. BandPass is capable of monitoring, evaluating, and guiding patients in upper-body strength training in real-time. It includes sensors equipped to an exercise band with custom-designed electronics for the wireless transmission of patient data. It is unique in that the data collected could be monitored by a physician to aid in proper interventions.

Along with continuing the development of the BandPass, the team will develop a mobile application and cloud-based service for data transmission, processing, and storage. Later this year, the team will test their device on a cohort of 16 patients to obtain feedback.

This work is being supported under Award Number R41AG071290 by the National Institute On Aging of the National Institutes of Health. To learn more about BandPass and SynchroHealth, check out their website here. The Dartmouth Engineering article on this work can be found here.

The foundational research is described in academic papers [seo:therabandpeterson:chasebatsis:development].

A Weight-Loss Intervention Augmented by a Wearable Device in Rural Older Adults with Obesity: A Feasibility Study

The purpose of this pilot study was to evaluate the feasibility, acceptability, and effectiveness of integrating a wearable Fitbit device into a high-touch, multicomponent weight loss intervention at a local community aging center.

Results of this pilot are the first to demonstrate the integration of a commercial wearable into a community-based weight loss program in older adults with obesity residing in rural areas. Despite misconceptions that this demographic is unable to use technology, these results not only showed effectiveness in the primary study outcomes but also showed ease of use, satisfaction, and engagement with the intervention and the technology itself. These findings suggest that wearable fitness devices have the potential to be acceptable and subsequently used in health promotion interventions in older adults.

John A. Batsis, Curtis L. Petersen, Matthew M. Clark, Summer B. Cook, Francisco Lopez-Jimenez, Rima I. Al-Nimr, Dawna Pidgeon, David Kotz, Todd A. Mackenzie, and Steven J. Bartels. A Weight-Loss Intervention Augmented by a Wearable Device in Rural Older Adults with Obesity: A Feasibility Study. Journals of Gerontology – Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, volume 76, number 1, pages 95–100. Oxford Academic, January 2021. doi:10.1093/gerona/glaa115. First published 8 May 2020.

Feasibility and acceptability of a technology-based, rural weight management intervention in older adults with obesity

We determined the feasibility, acceptability and preliminary outcomes of an integrated technology-based health promotion intervention in rural-living, older adults using remote monitoring and synchronous video-based technology.

Participants video-called with registered dietician nutritionists, were guided by a physical therapist in exercise through a tablet device, and wore a Fitbit. On average, participants lost weight, improved their 30 second sit-to-stand, and at least 41% of participants had at least a 30 meter improvement in 6-min walk. Subjective measures of Late-life function and disability instrument (LLFDI) also noted improvements in total, upper, basic lower, and advanced lower extremity function. In conclusion, this technology-based, video-monitoring and remote monitoring intervention is feasible, acceptable, and demonstrates favorable outcomes by overcoming the limitations of existing geriatric weight-loss trials, overcoming a need for proximity to medical facilities.

John A. Batsis, Curtis L. Petersen, Matthew M. Clark, Summer B. Cook, David Kotz, Tyler L. Gooding, Meredith N. Roderka, Rima I. Al-Nimr, Dawna Pidgeon, Ann Haedrich, K.C. Wright, Christina Aquila, and Todd A. Mackenzie. Feasibility and acceptability of a technology-based, rural weight management intervention in older adults with obesity. BMC Geriatrics, volume 21, article 44, 13 pages. BMC, January 2021. doi:10.1186/s12877-020-01978-x. PMID: 33435877.

Augmenting Traditional User-Centered Design with Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analysis

This paper includes patient and clinician feedback to better understand treatment progress and increase compliance in resistance-based physical activity to mitigate the effects of age-associated losses in muscle mass and strengths. This study aims to develop a mobile app for a novel device through a user-centered design process with both older adults and clinicians while exploring whether data collected through this process can be used in natural language processing (NLP) and sentiment analysis. We used the Bing sentiment library for a sentiment analysis of interview transcripts and then applied NLP-based latent Dirichlet allocation (LDA) topic modeling to identify differences and similarities in patient and clinician participant interviews. To assess utility, we used quantitative assessment questionnaires—System Usability Scale (SUS) and Usefulness, Satisfaction, and Ease of use (USE). We found a positive association with positive sentiment in an interview and SUS score (ß=1.38; 95% CI 0.37 to 2.39; P=.01), but no significant association between sentiment and the USE score. The LDA analysis found no overlap between patients and clinicians in the 8 identified topics. Involving patients and clinicians allowed us to design and build an app that is user friendly for older adults while supporting compliance. This is the first analysis using NLP and usability questionnaires in the quantification of user-centered design of technology for older adults.

Curtis Lee Petersen, Ryan Halter, David Kotz, Lorie Loeb, Summer Cook, Dawna Pidgeon, Brock C. Christensen, and John A. Batsis. Using Natural Language Processing and Sentiment Analysis to Augment Traditional User-Centered Design: Development and Usability StudyJMIR mHealth and uHealth 8(8), page Article#e16862 (13 pages), August 2020. JMIR Publications. DOI: 10.2196/16862

Willingness to pay for a telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle programme

Recent Amulet paper:

Effective weight-management interventions require frequent interactions with specialised multidisciplinary teams of medical, nutritional and behavioural experts. However, barriers that exist in rural areas, such as transportation and a lack of specialised services, can prevent patients from receiving quality care. We recruited patients from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Weight & Wellness Center into a single-arm, non-randomised study of a remotely delivered 16-week evidence-based healthy lifestyle programme. Every 4 weeks, participants completed surveys that included their willingness to pay for services like those experienced in the intervention based on commute and copay. Overall, those with a travel duration of 31–45 min had a greater willingness to trade in-person visits for telehealth than any other group. Participants who had a travel duration less than 15 min, 16–30 min and 46–60 min experienced a positive trend in willingness to have telehealth visits until Week 8, where there was a general negative trend in willingness to trade in-person visits for virtual. Participants believed that telemedicine was useful and helpful. In rural areas where patients travel 30–45 min a telemedicine-delivered, intensive weight-loss intervention may be a well-received and cost-effective way for both patients and the clinical care team to connect.

Vanessa K. Rauch, Meredith Roderka, Auden C. McClure, Aaron B. Weintraub, Kevin Curtis, David F. Kotz, Richard I. Rothstein, and John A. Batsis. Willingness to pay for a telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle programmeJournal of Telemedicine and Telecare, June 2020. Sage. DOI: 10.1177/1357633X20943337

Barriers and facilitators in implementing a pilot, pragmatic, telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle program for obesity management in a rural, academic obesity clinic

An Amulet-related paper was published recently.

Few evidence-based strategies are specifically tailored for disparity populations such as rural adults. Two-way video-conferencing using telemedicine can potentially surmount geographic barriers that impede participation in high-intensity treatment programs offering frequent visits to clinic facilities. We aimed to understand barriers and facilitators of implementing a telemedicine-delivered tertiary-care, rural academic weight-loss program for the management of obesity. A single-arm study of a 16-week, weight-loss pilot evaluated barriers and facilitators to program participation, exploratory measures of program adoption, and staff confidence in implementation and intervention delivery. A program was delivered using video-conferencing within an existing clinical infrastructure. Elements of the Consolidated Framework for Implementation Research (CFIR) provided a basis for assessing intervention characteristics, inner and outer settings, and individual characteristics using surveys and semi-structured interview. Using CFIR, the intervention was valuable from a patient participant standpoint; staff equally had positive feelings about using telemedicine as useful for patient care. The RE-AIM framework demonstrated limited reach but willingness to adopt was above average. A significant barrier limiting sustainability was physical space for intervention delivery and privacy and dedicated resources for staff. Scheduling stressors were also a challenge in its implementation. The need to engage staff, enhance organizational culture, and increase reach are major factors for rural health obesity clinics to enhance sustainability of using telemedicine for the management of obesity.

John Batsis, Auden C. McClure, Aaron B. Weintraub, Diane Sette, Sivan Rotenberg, Courtney J. Stevens, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, David F. Kotz, Stephen J. Bartels, Summer B. Cook, and Richard I. Rothstein. Barriers and facilitators in implementing a pilot, pragmatic, telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle program for obesity management in a rural, academic obesity clinicImplementation Science Communications 1, page Article#83 (9 pages), September 2020. BMC. DOI: 10.1186/s43058-020-00075-9

Continuous Detection of Physiological Stress with Commodity Hardware

A new publication from the Amulet group:

Varun Mishra, Gunnar Pope, Sarah Lord, Stephanie Lewia, Byron Lowens, Kelly Caine, Sougata Sen, Ryan Halter, and David Kotz. “Continuous Detection of Physiological Stress with Commodity Hardware.” ACM Transactions on Computing for Healthcare (HEALTH), volume 1, number 2, article 8, 30 pages. ACM Press, April 2020. doi:10.1145/3361562. ©Copyright the authors.

Abstract: Timely detection of an individual’s stress level has the potential to improve stress management, thereby reducing the risk of adverse health consequences that may arise due to mismanagement of stress. Recent advances in wearable sensing have resulted in multiple approaches to detect and monitor stress with varying levels of accuracy. The most accurate methods, however, rely on clinical-grade sensors to measure physiological signals; they are often bulky, custom made, and expensive, hence limiting their adoption by researchers and the general public. In this article, we explore the viability of commercially available off-the-shelf sensors for stress monitoring. The idea is to be able to use cheap, nonclinical sensors to capture physiological signals and make inferences about the wearer’s stress level based on that data. We describe a system involving a popular off-the-shelf heart rate monitor, the Polar H7; we evaluated our system with 26 participants in both a controlled lab setting with three well-validated stress-inducing stimuli and in free-living field conditions. Our analysis shows that using the off-the-shelf sensor alone, we were able to detect stressful events with an F1-score of up to 0.87 in the lab and 0.66 in the field, on par with clinical-grade sensors.

MobiCom presentation of Amulet

ACM posted a video recording of the presentation of our paper, Experience: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Wearable Device for mHealth, at the annual ACM International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom) last month in Los Cabos, Mexico.

Abstract: Wrist-worn devices hold great potential as a platform for mobile health (mHealth) applications because they comprise a familiar, convenient form factor and can embed sensors in proximity to the human body. Despite this potential, however, they are severely limited in battery life, storage, bandwidth, computing power, and screen size. In this paper, we describe the experience of the research and development team designing, implementing and evaluating Amulet – an open-hardware, open-software wrist-worn computing device – and its experience using Amulet to deploy mHealth apps in the field. In the past five years the team conducted 11 studies in the lab and in the field, involving 204 participants and collecting over 77,780 hours of sensor data. We describe the technical issues the team encountered and the lessons they learned, and conclude with a set of recommendations. We anticipate the experience described herein will be useful for the development of other research-oriented computing platforms. It should also be useful for researchers interested in developing and deploying mHealth applications, whether with the Amulet system or with other wearable platforms.

George Boateng, Vivian Genaro Motti, Varun Mishra, John A. Batsis, Josiah Hester, and David Kotz. Experience: Design, Development and Evaluation of a Wearable Device for mHealth Applications. In Proceedings of the International Conference on Mobile Computing and Networking (MobiCom), Article #31, October 2019. DOI 10.1145/3300061.3345432.

Feasibility and acceptability of a rural, pragmatic, telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle programme

Although not specifically involving the Amulet device, John Batsis and members of the Amulet team published a recent feasibility study involving the use of wearables, like Amulet, in support of health monitoring for older adults.

  • John A. Batsis, Auden C. McClure, Aaron B. Weintraub, David F. Kotz, Sivan Rotenberg, Summer B. Cook, Diane Gilbert-Diamond, Kevin Curtis, Courtney J. Stevens, Diane Sette, and Richard I. Rothstein. Feasibility and acceptability of a rural, pragmatic, telemedicine-delivered healthy lifestyle programmeObesity Science & Practice, 1-10, August 2019. DOI 10.1002/osp4.366.

Abstract: Background: The public health crisis of obesity leads to increasing morbidity that are even more profound in certain populations such as rural adults. Live, two-way video-conferencing is a modality that can potentially surmount geographic barriers and staffing shortages. Methods: Patients from the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Weight and Wellness Center were recruited into a pragmatic, single-arm, nonrandomized study of a remotely delivered 16-week evidence-based healthy lifestyle programme. Patients were provided hardware and appropriate software allowing for remote participation in all sessions, outside of the clinic setting. Our primary outcomes were feasibility and acceptability of the telemedicine intervention, as well as potential effectiveness on anthropometric and functional measures. Results: Of 62 participants approached, we enrolled 37, of which 27 completed at least 75% of the 16-week programme sessions (27% attrition). Mean age was 46.9 +/- 11.6 years (88.9% female), with a mean body mass index of 41.3 +/- 7.1 kg/m2 and mean waist circumference of 120.7 +/- 16.8 cm. Mean patient participant satisfaction regarding the telemedicine approach was favourable (4.48 +/- 0.58 on 1-5 Likert scale–low to high) and 67.6/75 on standardized questionnaire. Mean weight loss at 16 weeks was 2.22 +/- 3.18 kg representing a 2.1% change (P < .001), with a loss in waist circumference of 3.4% (P = .001). Fat mass and visceral fat were significantly lower at 16 weeks (2.9% and 12.5%; both P < .05), with marginal improvement in appendicular skeletal muscle mass (1.7%). In the 30-second sit-to-stand test, a mean improvement of 2.46 stands (P = .005) was observed. Conclusion: A telemedicine-delivered, intensive weight loss intervention is feasible, acceptable, and potentially effective in rural adults seeking weight loss.

Opportunities to Improve a Mobile Obesity Wellness Intervention for Rural Older Adults with Obesity

A qualitative study to determine whether mHealth devices, like Amulet, could be useful in supporting rural-health interventions.

  • John Batsis, Stephen Bartels, Rachel Dokko, Alexandra Zagaria, John Naslund, Elizabeth Carpenter-Song, and David Kotz. Opportunities to Improve a Mobile Obesity Wellness Intervention for Rural Older Adults with Obesity. Journal of Community Health, September 2019. DOI 10.1007/s10900-019-00720-y.

Abstract: Older adults with obesity are at a high risk of decline, particularly in rural areas. Our study objective was to gain insights into how a potential Mobile Health Obesity Wellness Intervention (MOWI) in rural older adults with obesity, consisting of nutrition and exercise sessions, could be helpful to improve physical function. A qualitative methods study was conducted in a rural community, community-based aging center. Four community leaders, 7 clinicians and 29 patient participants underwent focus groups and semi-structured interviews. All participants had a favorable view of MOWI and saw its potential to improve health and create accountability. Participants noted that MOWI could overcome geographic barriers and provided feedback about components that could improve implementation. There was expressed enthusiasm over its potential to improve health. The use of technology in older adults with obesity in rural areas has considerable promise. There is potential that this intervention could potentially extend to distant areas in rural America that can surmount accessibility barriers. If successful, this intervention could potentially alter healthcare delivery by enhancing health promotion in a remote, geographically constrained communities. MOWI has the potential to reach older adults with obesity using novel methods in geographically isolated regions.