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.

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.

Use of Amulet in behavioral change for geriatric obesity management

John Batsis and the Amulet team just published a paper regarding Use of Amulet in behavioral change for geriatric obesity management.

Background: Obesity in older adults is a significant public health concern. Weight-loss interventions are known to improve physical function but risk the development of sarcopenia. Mobile health devices have the potential to augment existing interventions and, if designed accordingly, could improve one’s physical activity and strength in routine physical activity interventions. Methods and results: We present Amulet, a mobile health device that has the capability of engaging patients in physical activity. The purpose of this article is to discuss the development of applications that are tailored to older adults with obesity, with the intention to engage and improve their health. Conclusions: Using a team-science approach, Amulet has the potential, as an open-source mobile health device, to tailor activity interventions to older adults.

John A. Batsis, Alexandra B. Zagaria, Ryan J. Halter, George G. Boateng, Patrick Proctor, Stephen J. Bartels, and David Kotz. Use of Amulet in behavioral change for geriatric obesity management. Journal of Digital Health, 5, June 2019. DOI 10.1177/2055207619858564.

Amulet: an open-source wrist-worn platform for mHealth research and education

David Kotz recently presented a paper titled Amulet: an open-source wrist-worn platform for mHealth research and education.

Abstract: The advent of mobile and wearable computing technology has opened up tremendous opportunities for health and wellness applications. It is increasingly possible for individuals to wear devices that can sense their physiology or health-related behaviors, collecting valuable data in support of diagnosis, treatment, public health, or other applications. From a researcher’s point of view, the commercial availability of these “mHealth” devices has made it feasible to conduct scientific studies of health conditions and to explore health-related interventions. It remains difficult, however, to conduct systems work or other experimental research involving the hardware, software, security, and networking aspects of mobile and wearable technology. In this paper we describe the Amulet platform, an open-hardware, open-software wrist-worn computing device designed specifically for mHealth applications. Our position is that the Amulet is an inexpensive platform for research and education, and we encourage the mHealth community to explore its potential.

In Workshop on Networked Healthcare Technology (NetHealth), pages 891-897, January 2019. IEEE Computer Society Press.

DOI 10.1109/COMSNETS.2019.8711407.

Technology for Behavioral Change in Rural Older Adults with Obesity

A new paper from the extended Amulet group.

John A. Batsis, John A. Naslund, Alexandra B. Zagaria, David Kotz, Rachel Dokko, Stephen J. Bartels & Elizabeth Carpenter-Song. Technology for Behavioral Change in Rural Older Adults with ObesityJournal of Nutrition in Gerontology and Geriatrics, April 2019.DOI: 10.1080/21551197.2019.1600097

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Amulet paper at UbiTtention/Ubicomp

Abstract: In this work, we attempt to determine whether the contextual information of a participant can be used to predict whether the participant will respond to a particular EMA trigger. We use a publicly available dataset for our work, and find that by using basic contextual features about the participant’s activity, conversation status, audio, and location, we can predict if an EMA triggered at a particular time will be answered with a precision of 0.647, which is significantly higher than a baseline precision of 0.41. Using this knowledge, the researchers conducting field studies can efficiently schedule EMAs and achieve higher response rates.

Varun Mishra, Byron Lowens, Sarah Lord, Kelly Caine, and David Kotz. Investigating Contextual Cues As Indicators for EMA Delivery. In Proceedings of the International Workshop on Smart & Ambient Notification and Attention Management (UbiTtention), pages 935-940, September 2017. ACM. DOI 10.1145/3123024.3124571.

Cryptographic transfer of sensor data from the Amulet to a smartphone

David Harmon ’17 develops and evaluates a novel protocol for secure transfer of sensor data from an Amulet to a smartphone, in this Senior Honors Thesis released as a Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report.

Abstract. The authenticity, confidentiality, and integrity of data streams from wearable healthcare devices are critical to patients, researchers, physicians, and others who depend on this data to measure the effectiveness of treatment plans and clinical trials. Many forms of mHealth data are highly sensitive; in the hands of unintended parties such data may reveal indicators of a patient’s disorder, disability, or identity. Furthermore, if a malicious party tampers with the data, it can affect the diagnosis or treatment of patients, or the results of a research study. Although existing network protocols leverage encryption for confidentiality and integrity, network-level encryption does not provide end-to-end security from the device, through the smartphone and database, to downstream data consumers. In this thesis we provide a new open protocol that provides end-to-end authentication, confidentiality, and integrity for healthcare data in such a pipeline.

We present and evaluate a prototype implementation to demonstrate this protocol’s feasibility on low-power wearable devices, and present a case for the system’s ability to meet critical security properties under a specific adversary model and trust assumptions.

Advisor: David Kotz.

ActivityAware: Wearable System for Real-Time Physical Activity Monitoring among the Elderly

George Boateng, M.S., reports on new Amulet research in his Master’s thesis, available as a Dartmouth Computer Science Technical Report.

Abstract. Physical activity helps reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, hypertension and obesity. The ability to monitor a person’s daily activity level can inform self-management of physical activity and related interventions. For older adults with obesity, the importance of regular, physical activity is critical to reduce the risk of long-term disability. In this work, we present ActivityAware, an application on the Amulet wrist-worn device that monitors the daily activity levels (low, moderate and vigorous) of older adults in real-time. The app continuously collects acceleration data on the Amulet, classifies the current activity level, updates the day’s accumulated time spent at that activity level, displays the results on the screen and logs summary data for later analysis.

The app implements an activity-level detection model we developed using a Linear Support Vector Machine (SVM). We trained our model using data from a user study, where subjects performed common physical activities (sit, stand, lay down, walk and run). We obtained accuracies up to 99.2% and 98.5% with 10-fold cross validation and leave-one-subject-out (LOSO) cross-validation respectively. We ran a week-long field study to evaluate the utility, usability and battery life of the ActivityAware system where 5 older adults wore the Amulet as it monitored their activity level. The utility evaluation showed that the app was somewhat useful in achieving the daily physical activity goal. The usability feedback showed that the ActivityAware system has the potential to be used by people for monitoring their activity levels. Our energy-efficiency evaluation revealed a battery life of at least 1 week before needing to recharge. The results are promising, indicating that the app may be used for activity-level monitoring by individuals or researchers for epidemiological studies, and eventually for the development of interventions that could improve the health of older adults.

Advisors: David Kotz, Ryan Halter, John Batsis

Emily Greene wins NCWIT Collegiate Award Honorable Mention

Congratulations to Emily Greene, an undergraduate in the Amulet group, who received Honorable Mention for the NCWIT Collegiate Award from the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). Emily is spending this week at the NCWIT Summit on Women and IT in Tucson, Arizona.

Here is her video submission, which describes a cryptographically-supported mechanism for selective sharing of streams of mHealth data, such as those that would be produced by Amulet applications.