PHI Seminar Speaker Series

PHI Seminar Speaker Series

Mariya Shiyko presents at the PHI Speaker Series

The PHI Seminar Speaker Series launched in the fall of 2012 and is held many weeks throughout the academic year. Speakers include innovative thinkers in academia and the health and medical technology industries on topics ranging such as basic research that impacts PHI technology, development, deployment, and evaluation of PHI systems, innovations in related key technologies, and health technology innovation, dissemination, and entrepreneurship. You can receive notification of PHI seminar series events by subscribing to the PHI-Seminar announcement-only mailing list.

  • Mondays Noon-1 pm, 12th floor conference room
    177 Huntington Avenue
  • Open to the community
  • If you do not have access to the building and would like to attend, contact Christine Gordon to be added to the list of names at the building’s front desk (

Schedule for Fall 2016

This semester will focus on speakers from Northeastern.

  • September 19
    Title: Using measures of context to improve detection and alerting algorithms for health coaching interventions
    Prof. Holly Jimison
    CCIS and Nursing
    Northeastern University
    Abstract: The demographics of our aging population and an increase in chronic conditions is shifting healthcare from hospitals and clinics to the home. There is an increasing need for technology-based solutions for providing just-in-time tailored health interventions to individuals for informed self-management. In this talk we will focus on new approaches to computational modeling that use a dynamic assessment of context to improve the performance of algorithms that assess patient state as a component of health coaching interventions. In general, we use a decision-theoretic approach to classification and alerting that incorporates context variables, such as location and activity, to improve probability and utility estimates required for tailored alerting protocols. Examples will include context-based approaches to improve medication reminding, fall detection and ECG analysis.
  • September 26
    Title: Employer wellness programs: Data collection, discrimination, and regulation
    Prof. Kristin Madison
    School of Law and Health Sciences
    Northeastern University
  • October 3
    Title: Behavioral informatics
    Prof. Misha Pavel
    CCIS and Health Sciences
    Northeastern University
  • October 10
    No seminar – Columbus Day
  • October 17
    Title: Kinect’ing with clinicians: Exploring the role of motivation and engagement in virtual reality and active video game use in rehabilitation
    Prof. Danielle Levac
    Physical Therapy
    Northeastern University
  • October 24
    Title: Can we change our sedentary, car-dominated culture? A “crazy” proposal to support active commuting via bicycling via technology 
    Prof. Stephen Intille
    CCIS and Health Sciences
    Northeastern University
  • October 31
    Northeastern University PHI students

  • November 7
    Title: Human computation games and citizen science   
    Prof. Seth Cooper
    Northeastern University
  • November 14
    Topic: Nursing technology
    Dean Nancy Hanrahan
    Northeastern University
  • November 21
    Title: TBD
    Prof. Andrea Parker
    CCIS and Health Sciences
    Northeastern University
  • November 28
  • December 5
    Title: Coaching to death
    Prof. Tim Bickmore
    Northeastern University
    Abstract: Conceptualizations of “wellness” typically bring to mind young, fit, healthy adults who are trying to maintain their idyllic state as long as possible. However, “wellness” is important for everyone, including those nearing the end of life, and must encompass reduction in suffering as well as the promotion of behaviors we associate with wellness. I will discuss needs and opportunities for wellness promotion in palliative care, and work my lab has been doing on a virtual palliative care coach. This e-coach works with individuals during their last year of life to help them manage pain and other symptoms, reduce stress and anxiety, and identify and address unmet spiritual needs, in addition to promoting more traditional wellness behaviors such as physical activity.
  • December 12
    Prof. Matthew Goodwin
    Topic: Computational behavioral science
    Health Sciences and CCIS
    Northeastern University

Schedule for Fall 2015

Privacy intact? Boundary management and why it matters for older adults

Clara Berridge, PhD, MSW
Center for Gerontology and Healthcare Research, Brown University
September 14, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


The technological generational shift from active personal emergency response systems to passive continuous monitoring installed in the living spaces of older adults has raised concerns about the invasion of privacy, yet how do we ask questions about new technology-based care practices that appear to challenge existing expectations and meanings of privacy?In this presentation, I will describe findings from a study that examines the ways in which users and former users of a sensor-based remote monitoring system make sense of its relationship to their privacy. Forty-nine in-depth interviews were conducted with elder residents, family members, and staff of ethnically diverse, low-income independent living residence apartment buildings where the passive monitoring system had been offered for six years. Five diverse ways of articulating privacy emerged. These themes lend themselves to Julie Cohen’s boundary management framework, provoking the question of how the introduction of passive monitoring changes boundaries and tools for managing them. Analyses identify where boundary intrusion can occur in practice, as well as how changes to technology design and procedures could create opportunities for residents to manage their own boundaries according to their privacy needs.

The Health Innovations Program at Halmstad University: A Multidisciplinary Approach to Technology for Successful Aging

Ingela Skärsäter, RN, PhD & Margaretha Pejner, RN, PhD
School of Health and Welfare, Halmstad University, Sweden
September 21, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


Halmstad University in Halmstad, Sweden, much like Northeastern University, has taken on a strategic initiative in the area of technology for successful aging. Both universities are poised to be leaders in this multidisciplinary effort. Ingela Skärsäter, a professor of nursing at Halmstad University conducts research in digital home services for older adults to support aging in place, with a specialization on mental health. Dr. Skärsäter now directs Halmstad University’s Health Innovations Program, with an emphasis on aging and technology. Dr. Margaretha Pejner also works in the area of health and wellness for older adults and leads the EU-funded effort on exploring work competencies required for clinical services in the Halmstad region. She is a district nurse with both inpatient and home health experience in the municipality services in the Halmstad region. Drs. Skärsäter and Pejner are working in consultation with Misha Pavel and Holly Jimison from NU on coordinating multidisciplinary research projects that bring junior faculty from both clinical and engineering disciplines together to solve the challenge of helping older adults remain independent and able to age in place with a high quality of life.

An evidence-based adoption of technology model for the remote monitoring of elders’ daily activities

Diane Mahoney, PhD, ANP-BC, FGSA, FAAN
Jacque Mohr Professor of Geriatric Nursing Research
Director of Gerontechnology Research & Development
Senior Scientist, MGH Munn Center for Nursing Research
Massachusetts General Hospital, Institute of Health Professions
September 28, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


Academic researchers have highlighted the need for theoretical developments in technology-intervention research. Dr. Mahoney will discuss the studies from her program of gerontechnology research that provided the evidence for her Adoption of Technology Model for use with older adults and their caregivers. This model begins to respond to the theory-building need and establishes a conceptual foundation for future research. She will highlight practical issues and lessons learned for technology developers and interventionists to consider; because what benefit will occur from new technologies if end users don’t adopt or underutilize them?Dr. Mahoney is a geriatric nurse practitioner, senior social science researcher, and gerontologist who has been developing and testing innovative ways to use telecommunication and wireless sensor based technologies with frail and cognitively impaired older adults and their family caregivers for the last twenty years.

Technology in support of healthy living: What works, what doesn’t, and what we can do about it

Jochen Meyer
Director of Health Department, Ambient Health Technologies
Oldenburger Institute for Information Technology (OFFIS), Oldenburg, Germany
October 19, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


It is a strange paradox that we are talking about health technology, but care much more about disease technology. We address chronic diseases, we want to change unhealthy behaviors, we aim to help careers and nurses – but we hardly ever look at those who are and want to remain healthy. This is strange, as times of health outnumber periods of disease in most person’s lifetimes. In my talk I will discuss some challenges related to technology for living healthy, e.g.:

  • Why is there an inherent trade-off between quality of data and precision?
  • How can we measure health beyond counting steps?
  • Can we really design systems for life-long use, and what would they look like?

Based on these challenges I will provide insight into our work on usable and reasonable technology for holistic lifelong health.

Jochen Meyer studied Computer Science at the University of Oldenburg, Germany from 1989 to 1994. From 1994 to 1995, he worked as a software developer in Hamburg. Since 1995, he has worked at the research institute OFFIS in Oldenburg, where he first was active as a research assistant in the area of digital libraries and internet technologies. From 1998 to 2008 he was director of the division of Multimedia and Internet Information Services. Since 2008 he has been director of the Health department at OFFIS where he is responsible for about 30 researchers working in regional, national and international projects. His research areas include technologies for well-being and prevention, ambient assisted living, and personal use of multimedia data.

From Nursing Practice to Intervention Development: Lowering Urban Women’s HIV Risk with Love, Sex, & Choices, a Web-based Video Series on Smartphones

Rachel Jones, PhD, RN, FAAN
School of Nuring, Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University
October 26, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


This presentation will review a current, ongoing randomized controlled trial to evaluate an intervention utilizing Love, Sex, & Choices (LSC), a 12-episode, soap opera web series designed to promote reduction in HIV risk behavior and increase in HIV testing among high risk, young, urban Black women. Dr. Jones will discuss the theoretical framework and descriptive studies that led to the development of LSC, with additional emphasis on benchmarks to evaluate differences in risk and demographics between those recruited online and those recruited in traditional on-the-ground venue sampling. Technical matrices, performance matrices and video evaluation will be described. By integrating dissemination and implementation criteria into an efficacy trial as a hybrid model, LSC can feasibly and rapidly be scaled-up to stream 24/7 via Internet access.Dr. Jones is an Associate Professor at Northeastern School of Nursing and a Faculty Scholar at the Institute on Urban Health Research and Practice. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, and a former recipient of the Nurse Educator of the New York Times Tribute to Nurses award. Previously in clinical practice as a family nurse practitioner, a large proportion of her caseload was people with, or at risk, for HIV/AIDS.

Jintronix, an easy-to-use virtual rehabilitation platform

Mark Evin
Chief Product Officer & Co-Founder, Jintronix
November 9, 12-1 PM, Location: Webinar


This presentation will describe the technologies utilized by Jintronix, an easy-to-use virtual rehabilitation platform designed for physical and occupational therapy. It combines common rehab movements, virtual games and motion sensing cameras to offer a fun and effective tool for physical rehabilitation. Jintronix is an application that may be downloaded and installed on a personal computer (PC). It contains all the activities that patients would engage in to participate in their physical therapy. Currently, the system requires that a clinician be monitoring the users, and prescribing the activities based on the client’s needs.Mark Evin is a multimedia producer and programmer driven to make great ideas fly. After graduating from Concordia University’s Communication Studies program in 2004, Mark worked in in television production at Apartment 11 Productions and music/sound production with YTV. Mark later turned his focus to multimedia and became CEO of Jin Motion Inc. in 2009. With Jin Motion, he worked on several projects including a haptics/VR system for McGill’s School of Physical and Occupational Therapy, as well as an interactive computer-vision display for the Montreal Science Centre, which he developed and produced. Together with Daniel Schacter in 2012, he co-founded Jintronix, which boasts over 5,000 patient users in post-acute facilities and from the comforts of their own living rooms.

Measuring Emotions

Eric Anderson, PhD
Postdoctoral Scholar
Center for Applied Brain and Cognitive Sciences, Tufts University
November 16, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


There are many reasons why we’d like to measure and sense emotional feelings in other people: knowing when someone is depressed, anxious, or in pain would allow for intervention. Perceiving emotions seems like a simple issue–we plainly see emotions in other people, so sensors should have no problem. However, this simplicity is an illusion. In this talk, I will discuss some of the challenges of measuring affect and emotions using the current methods in psychology and cognitive neuroscience. Finally, I will touch on current theoretical perspectives on affect and emotions and the implications these have.Eric is an affective scientist who explores how feelings influence experience. In particular, his present research explores how the experience of eating is influenced by affective, moral beliefs. He is also interested in leveraging technology to link basic lab science to societal issues in the real world.

Computational epidemiology does more than forecast

Alessandro Vespignani, PhD
Sternberg Family Distinguished University Professor
Department of Physics, College of Science
College of Computer and Information Science
Bouvé College of Health Science
Northeastern University
November 30, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


Recent years have witnessed the development of data driven models of infectious diseases rooted in the combination of large–scale data mining techniques, computational approaches and mathematical modeling. Although these models are increasingly used to support public-health decisions they are often under debate by only considering their value as forecasting tools. Here I will discuss, by using specific modeling examples of the H1N1 pandemic and the West Africa Ebola epidemic, how computational models can be used in real time to provide situational awareness, intervention planning and projections, and the identification of factors that fundamentally influence the course of an outbreak.

Prof. Vespignani’s research activity focuses on the interdisciplinary application of statistical and numerical simulation methods in the study of biological, social and technological networks. Vespignani has interdisciplinary appointments in the College of Computer and Information Science, College of Science and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences. Prior to joining NU, he was J.H. Rudy Professor of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University and serving as the Director of the Center for Complex Networks and Systems Research and the Associate Director of the Pervasive Technology Institute (2004-2011). Prof. Vespignani is serving in the editorial board of several journals and is editor in Chief of EPJ Data Science (Springer). He is president elected of the Complex Systems Society, and in the board of the Institute for Scientific Interchange Foundation. Vespignani is an elected fellow of the American Physical Society, elected member of the Academy of Europe, and fellow of the Institute for Quantitative Social Sciences at Harvard University.

Physical Activity, Sedentary Behavior and the Workplace

Dinesh John, PhD
Assistant Professor
Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University
December 7, 12-1 PM, Location: SH 415


Prolonged sedentary behavior characterized by long bouts of sitting increases the risk for premature mortality and chronic health hazards including obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer and musculoskeletal disorders. This increased risk is present even among individuals who regularly engage in moderate-vigorous physical activity. More than 50% of the American workforce is employed in office jobs involving prolonged sitting and are therefore at risk for these health hazards. Ergonomic sit-to-stand and dynamic treadmill workstations are innovative workplace interventions that allow office workers to decrease sedentary behavior and engage in light activity and standing while working. A goal of Dr. John¹s work is to decrease workplace sedentary behavior to improve overall health in office workers. He has demonstrated that overweight office workers using treadmill workstations for 9-months replace an average of 2.5 hours of sitting with slow walking and standing while minimally affecting work productivity. This increase in light intensity activity resulted in significant weight loss and improved cardiovascular and metabolic health. Similarly, office workers using sit-to-stand workstations reduced their average sitting time by 2.6 hours during the workday over the course of 8 months. Dr. John uses commercially available sensor-based devices to measure and motivate behavior change to maximize intervention efficacy among office workers. Dr. John is currently collaborating with Massachusetts General Hospital/Partners Health Care and is conducting a cluster-randomized control study aiming to compare the health benefits of decreasing sedentary behavior at work using treadmill and sit-to-stand workstations on various markers of health. This work is funded by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. The talk will discuss findings from his previous work supporting the health benefits of engaging in light intensity activity at the workplace and the future directions of this line of research.

Dinesh John, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Health Sciences Department at Northeastern University. He earned his doctorate from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and received postdoctoral training at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Dr. John’s research examines the effects of physical activity and sedentary behavior on various health outcomes. His interventions mainly target the workplace and focus on modifying the office space to promote physical activity and decrease sedentary behavior. These interventions include treadmill and sit-to-stand workstations that allow sedentary office workers to alternate between sitting, standing and slow walking while simultaneously performing work.

Previous schedule for Fall 2014

Uncovering the Narrative Code: Interactive Stories for Youth Health

Amy S. Lu, PhD
College of Arts, Media & Design and Bouvé College of Health Sciences
Northeastern University
October 16, 4-5 PM, Location: BK 105


One of the oldest forms of communication, the narrative is pervasive across digital media. Recent studies have shown that narratives can serve as powerful tools for health promotion. The more a story “transports” or “immerses” a person into the narrative world, the more story-consistent beliefs and thoughts will be afterward.Persuading youth to adopt a healthy lifestyle requires creation of effective health messages through interdisciplinary collaboration. Digital media are especially important when trying to reach this age group, who are active media users and early adopters of new technologies. Young people are also highly imaginative and may be more receptive than adults to entertainment narratives with fictional elements.This talk will discuss a series of empirical research projects exploring the narrative in the context of blogs, animation, and health video games.

Verification of the Daily Activities of Older Adults: A Simple, Non-intrusive, Low-Cost Approach

Charles Consel, PhD
Professor of Computer Science
University of Bordeaux, Talence, France
October 27, 3-4 PM, Location: WVH 366


This talk will present an approach to verifying the activities of daily living of elders at their home. We verify activities, instead of inferring them, because our monitoring approach is driven by routines, initially sketched by users in their environment. Monitoring is supported by a lightweight sensor infrastructure, comprising non-intrusive, low-cost, wireless devices. Verification is performed by applying a simple formula to sensor log data, for each activity of interest.

Charles Consel is a professor of Computer Science at University of Bordeaux. He served on the faculty of Yale University, Oregon Graduate Institute and the University of Rennes. His research contributions cover programming languages, software engineering, operating systems, pervasive computing, & assisted living.

PHI Usability Evaluation Practicum

Zessie Zhang and Shuo Zhou
Grad Students, PHI Program, Northeastern University
October 30, 4-5 PM, Location: BK 105


Description: The two presenters spent two weeks at Boston Medical Center to understand the experience of hospital patients, interact with doctors and nurses, and try to identify opportunities for technology-based improvements. They will present their observation findings, qualitative analyses, and design recommendations for future studies.

Combining Real-Time Measures of Health Behaviors, Exposures, and Symptoms

Genevieve Dunton, PhD, MPH
Assistant Professor of Preventive Medicine and Psychology
University of Southern California
November 7, 2-3 PM, Location: 315 SH


Unhealthy lifestyle behaviors and exposures such as poor diet, physical inactivity, poor air quality, and ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun have severe health consequences. Using retrospective questionnaires to measure these behaviors can introduce errors, biases, and fallacies. This presentation will highlight the cutting-edge research being conducted in Dr. Dunton’s Real-Time Eating Activity and Children’s Health (REACH) lab at the University of Southern California. It will describe how Ecological Momentary Assessment (EMA) can be combined with other mobile sensing technologies such as accelerometers, GPS, instrumented asthma inhalers, UV dosimeters, and ambulatory cortisol assessments to examine psychological and contextual correlates of health behaviors, environmental exposures, and illness symptoms. The findings will be discussed in terms of methodological and theoretical contributions to our knowledge of how momentary experiences and decisions affect health.

Keeping the “Patient” in “Patient-Centric Care”: Preserving the Relational Aspects of Doctor-Patient Interactions

Timothy Hoff, PhD
D’Amore-McKim School of Business
School of Urban Affairs and Public Policy
Northeastern University
November 13, 4-5 PM, Location: BK 105


There is a meaningful management and policy focus on making US health care delivery more “patient-centric”. New models such as the medical home place a greater focus on patient needs and expectations at the center of their philosophy. That said, the current health care system appears to moving away from traditional relational elements of doctor-patient care delivery, creating new health care interactions that rely on the use of information technology, the Internet, new health workforce models, and more population-based management of health needs. While advancing the transactional abilities of the care delivery system, these innovations may undermine or transform aspects of doctor-patient relationships in ways not anticipated, and which have implications for key system outcomes. This talk will discuss the factors promoting these transformations, the ways in which to conceptualize their possible effects, and the key research and policy questions that emerge from this understanding.

In Vivo Assessments of Human Behavior & Health: A Methodological Perspective

Mariya Shiyko, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology
Bouvé College of Health Sciences, Northeastern University
November 20, 4-5 PM, Location: BK 105


In social & behavioral sciences, intensive longitudinal data are frequently collected with mobile phones that prompt participants to respond to a series of questions that focus on momentary experiences. Assessments include reports of environment (e.g., Right now, are there in a company of other smokers?), behaviors (e.g., Are you smoking right now?), and related psychological constructs (e.g., On a scale from 0 to 10, how much do you want to smoke right now?). Collected data contains missed assessments, irregular spacing of observations, unique scheduling of assessments across participants, and complex relational patterns between variables. The talk with describe two methodological approaches, the time-varying effect modeling (TVEM) and varying-coefficient regression (VCR) that were developed to address challenges of intensive longitudinal data. Both methods can be used to investigate dynamics of relationships between variables expressed as parameter functions that change continuously over time (or another important contextual domain). Empirical examples from smoking-cessation studies will be used to highlight uniqueness of the analytical methods and their contributions to smoking-cessation research.

Exploring the efficacy of using a social game for health behavior change

Magy Seif El-Nasr, PhD
Associate Professor
Director of Game Educational Programs and Research at Northeastern
Director of the Game Design Program
College of Arts, Media, and Design
College of Computer and Information Sciences
Northeastern University
December 4, 4-5 PM, Location: BK 105


Recent reports show that about 34.4% of the U.S. adults above 20 years old are overweight; it is projected that 86% of the adult population will be either at risk for obesity or obese by 2030. Major causes for such epidemic are a sedentary lifestyle and poor diet. Persuasive health games have a potential to impact this problem. And, similar to other types of interventions, adherence and engagement in health games is the keystone for examining their short- and long-term effects. However, according to many reports, only 41% participants are retained in single player games and 29% in social games after 90 days. These statistics raise multiple questions about factors influencing adherence and engagement.
In this talk, we discuss a study we conducted to explore these variables in the context of a commercial health social game called SpaPlay. SpaPlay (IgnitePlay, 2011) was built based on theoretical principles of Self-Determination theory. Players build and run a virtual “health Spa resort,” and its growth and success is tied to health-based activities that players undertake in real life. Examples of activities include choosing a healthy snack, including vegetables in a diet, climbing stairs, and walking. Players engage in quests, which include long chain of activities taken alone or in a group. The online community of fellow players creates opportunities for vicarious learning, motivation, and mutual support.
In this talk, we specifically ask the question of what design parameters in the game affect adherence and engagement? As a start to unpack these variables in the design of pervasive social games for health.

Previous schedule for Summer 2014

The InterWalk Project: Implementing Interval Walking Training (IWT) in Type 2 Diabetes Treatment at the National Level

Mathias Ried-Larsen & Henning Langberg
Centre for Physical Activity Research, Rigshospitalet, Denmark
CopenRehab, University of Copenhagen, Denmark
June 2, 10-11 AM, Location: Room 366 WVH


Physical activity is included in the first line treatment in Type 2 Diabetes (T2D). However, evidence supports supervised exercise and little evidence indicates that current un-supervised physical activity regimens are effective in TD2 rehabilitation. As the numbers of T2D patients increase and supervised exercise regimens labor intensive and expensive, novel effective unsupervised exercise are pivotal in prevention of morbidities and treatment of T2D. We have shown that the novel exercise mode, interval walking training (cycle of three minutes of slow walking followed by three minutes of fast walking) delivered by a small training computer (JD mate), is more efficient in improving physical fitness and glycemic control and reduce central fatness compared to continuous walking in T2D patients independent of the overall volume during walking. However, delivering interval walking on a large scale still remains a challenge as the training computer was expensive and frequently malfunctioning. New approaches are needed in order to ensure an effective implementation. Information technology (IT) has shown promising results in T2D self-management. Therefore, we developed an application (app) for smartphones to promote interval walking in the T2D population – the InterWalk app. The app serves as a personal trainer and provides feedback on the quality of interval walking by engaging the onboard sensors in the smartphone. Uniquely, we can combine exercise data from the app with the large Danish health and disease registers allowing us to evaluate the effect on a large scale. Although several applications to promote physical activity and exercise exist, none have been developed especially for T2D patients with a focus on individualized exercise and been systematically investigated effectiveness in T2D rehabilitation. The project consists of several sub-projects including testing of the effectiveness of the app in increasing physical activity compared to standard municipal setting in a large scale randomized controlled trial and evaluating the effect of nation-wide release of the app on glycemic control, morbidities, medication usage and contact to the treatment system in T2D patients. The latter is obtained by linking data from the app to the Danish registers. It is of utmost importance that we understand and are able implement and evaluate a feasible concept which is readily available for clinic and long-term therapy. Therefore, special attention is paid to develop novel tools for motivating the users to increase their habitual physical activity level. At the same time we intend develop feasible support frames for the municipalities to use directly in their prevention programs. The results from this project will potentially provide evidence to support implementation of a high quality intervention tool for use in the general public and specifically for rehabilitation of T2D patients at low cost, thus hopefully increase quality of life, decrease contact with the public care system and reduction of medication usage in the patient group. Since the release of the first version in November 2013, the app has been downloaded more than 10,000 times from app-store. Therefore, I expect that the results and experiences from this project will provide evidence that exercise can be effectively implemented at low costs on a large scale. Furthermore, I expect that this tele-medical approach is more effective compared to the municipal standard care implemented currently, thus will impact the way rehabilitation is implemented. Overall this project could potentially form ground for new approaches of rehabilitation, nationally as well as internationally, at reduced personal and societal costs.

Previous schedule for Fall 2013

Processes of Early language Acquisition in Children with ASD: Comprehension Matters

Letitia Naigles
Professor, Head of Developmental Division
Department of Psychology, University of Connecticut
October 23, Location: Room 348 CSC


Language and communication impairments are considered to be a primary deficit of autism spectrum disorders (ASD); however, it is not clear when during development these impairments emerge, nor the extent to which they can be attributed to impairments in core aspects of language per se vs. impairments in other social or cognitive processes. Moreover, most research on the early language of children with ASD relies on standardized tests, which do not target specific aspects of language in depth, and which may underestimate children’s linguistic knowledge. For the past decade, I have conducted a longitudinal study assessing the language development of a group of children recently diagnosed with an ASD, whose language comprehension was assessed using an innovative method for this population, Intermodal Preferential Looking (IPL). In this talk, I will discuss IPL data addressing two core processes of language acquisition that have seemed aberrant in children with ASD; namely, the developmental precedence of comprehension/receptive language over production/expressive language, and implicit generalization or rule use. I also discuss how both ‘internal’ processing speed and ‘external’ social and environmental factors have been found to be associated with the children’s developing language comprehension. I conclude by discussing the implications of these findings for advancing our understanding of autism and of language.

Previous schedule for Spring 2013

Crowdsourcing technologies for improved public health surveillance

Rumi Chunara
Boston Children’s Hospital and Research Fellow,
Harvard Medical School, HealthMap Group
January 24, Location: Room 104 WVG


Global patterns of disease burden are constantly shifting. Multiple drivers, such as the shift of populations to urban centers, increased mobility and evolving human-animal interactions favor the emergence of new genetic variants of pathogens as well as increased burden of chronic diseases in low-, middle- and high-income countries. At the same time, traditional public health capacity has remained stagnant, suffering from limits resulting from latency, high cost, inherent contributor biases and imprecise resolution. A critical barrier in disease epidemiology and control has been a lack of rapid, quantitative intelligence on disease dynamics from the point of care. As an engineer working in epidemiology, the goal of my research is to address these gaps by building tools to obtain information directly from individuals, including Internet-based and point-of-care sensors using mobile phones, smart-messaging service (SMS), smart phone applications, portable bio-molecular diagnostics and rapid genotyping. Amongst other challenges, crowdsourced data from these sensors is generally unstructured, unvalidated and noisy. In this talk I will discuss how we approach these challenges in a variety of settings and diseases; malaria surveillance in India, cholera in Haiti and obesity in the United States, to obtain better spatial and temporal insight into disease dynamics.

Use of Pre-recorded Video and Audio to Create an Engaging Interactive Media Program for Mental Health
James Cartreine, PhD
Research and Clinical Psychologist
Program in Behavioral Informatics and eHealth
Department of Psychiatry, Brigham and Women’s Hospital
Instructor in Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School
February 28, Location: Room 104 WVG


A 10-year program of research has been undertaken for NASA to develop and evaluate a suite of interactive media programs to help astronauts prevent, assess, and treat their own psychosocial problems. One of the Virtual Space Station tools that is now being transitioned for use by the public helps persons improve their mood and enjoyment of life, based on problem-solving therapy for depression. Through rich media (branching video and audio clips tailored to users’ inputs), a conversation is approximated between the user and a competent, caring therapist. The intent is to make the program feel more like interacting with a person than with a computer. Research studies have indicated that users “bond” with the on-camera therapist similar to live therapy. This talk will provide a rationale for when to use and not to use video, audio, graphics and text in a behavioral health-oriented computer program, as well as the process of storyboarding, scriptwriting, and media production that went into the production. A demonstration of the Virtual Space Station and its components will be provided.

RAGE-Control: Regulate and Gain Emotional Control

Jason Kahn
Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School
March 14, Location: Room 104 WVG


Many young children have clinical levels of anger and aggression, which has negative consequences with families, peers, and academics. Historically, these children have had to rely on psychotherapy or psychopharmacological medications to treat these symptoms. Both of these approaches can be effective, but have considerable limitations. Adapting both recent findings in neuroscience and constructivist principles, we have been developing video games to help these children by using active biofeedback, which requires both simultaneous attention and relaxation. In pilot studies in both outpatient and inpatient settings, we have found that using our video game leads to reduced symptoms of anger in children. We have taken these findings and started developing toys that use the principles.

Applying information technology to individualize health care

Tim Bunnell
Director, Nemours Bioinformatics Core Facility
Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children
March 21, Location: Room 104 WVG


Three examples will be presented on how Nemours is leveraging information technology to reach patients (and sometimes providers) as individuals. Our Obesity Cluster project seeks to provide obese teens with a personal health coach, messaging, and feedback to help them pursue healthy lifestyle goals. At the same time, their primary care physicians are provided tools to track how well their management of obese patients (both in aggregate and individually) is succeeding to improve the health of their patients. A second project is exploring the use of mobile devices to facilitate the conduct of a clinical trial for asthma medication. The approach affords immediate data entry by patients, personalized reminders, and virtual visits with clinical staff and is expected to improved adherence to the study protocol, more timely detection of possible adverse events, and make participation feasible for patients who cannot easily make frequent in-person visits to a clinic. Finally, an iPad application will be described that is designed to assist in the delivery of Auditory-Verbal (AV) therapy for pediatric cochlear implant and hearing aid patients. This application will employ utterance verification technology that has been under development in the Nemours Speech Research Laboratory for several years now.

From MIMIC to Sana: Learning systems, global eHealth, quality improvement and design thinking

Leo Celi
April 4, Location: Room 104 WVG


The failure to store and analyze the vast amount of data generated on a daily basis is a key hurdle in advancing the practice of medicine. An equally necessary and important goal involves creating a culture that reacts to and translates the findings of such “big data” into a better system of care. Together, these changes will close a feedback control loop that can help provide a more standardized, yet more personalized care. I will describe an interdisciplinary team-led, data-fueled, learning system that we have built around MIMIC, a public clinical database of patients admitted to the intensive care units at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. I will also discuss the evolution of Sana, a project hosted at the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at MIT, from an mHealth solution to an organization that promotes capacity building and design thinking in the development of health information systems to improve the quality of care in resource-poor settings.

Role of Patient-facing Technologies in the Era of Health Reform

David Ahern
Brigham and Women’s Hospital
April 18, Location: Room 104 WVG


I will describe a framework for organizing patient-facing technologies to enable meaningful use from the patients’ perspective. The major premise is that success of healthcare reform is predicated on creating technology-enabled, proactive care teams coupled with informed and activated patients who are more engaged in their own care. Two technology-enabled research projects in primary care will be presented as exemplars of this model.

Previous schedule for Fall 2012

Power of Ecological Momentary Data with Modern Statistical Methods: New Questions, New Insights

Mariya Shiyko
Department of Counseling and Applied Educational Psychology
Northeastern University
September 20, Location: Room 30 BK


With technological innovations, electronic survey methods are becoming extensively used to study a broad spectrum of health-related behaviors (e.g., smoking, alcohol use, dieting). Repeated assessments of desired behaviors in real time as people live their lives presents a unique opportunity to understand etiology, dynamics, and contextual determinants that are ecologically sound and void of substantial biases. From the methodological perspective, resulting ecological momentary data (EM data) poses numerous analytical challenges, which are difficult to overcome with traditional statistical methods. This talk will focus on advances in statistical methodology for EM data and will concentrate on the nonparametric tools that allow exploration of complex patterns of relations measured with repeated observations. The talk is aimed at a broad non-technical audience and will introduce the statistical method in a context of empirical examples of smoking-cessation and quality of life research.

Quantifying Movement Disorder Symptoms by Voice

Max Little
Wellcome Trust/MIT Fellow
September 27, Location: 233 BK


For many progressive movement disorders such as Parkinson’s, it would be valuable in practice to detect the symptoms of the disease remotely, noninvasively, and objectively. Voice impairment is one of the primary symptoms of Parkinson’s. In this talk I’ll describe techniques that can be used to detect Parkinson’s and quantify the symptoms, using voice recordings alone. These algorithms achieve 99% overall accuracy in detecting the disease, and around 2% error in replicating the clinical symptom severity score on the Unified Parkinson’s Disease Rating Scale. I’ll also describe early results from the Parkinson’s Voice Initiative, a project that has captured a very large sample of voices from healthy controls and Parkinson’s subjects from around the world, using the standard telephone network.

Using Quantified Health Choices and Financial Rewards to Change Behavior in Adolescents and Young Adults

Dan Imler
Boston University/Boston Medical Center and Willpath
October 4, Location: Room 30 BK


Willpath helps people build healthier lifestyles and better bodies by quantifying real-world data about their small, daily health choices to give them encouraging feedback, financial reward and social validation when those choices are in line with evidence-based guidelines. Willpath was developed from clinical informatics research at Boston University which used an algorithm to determine the value of different health choices in relation to standard medical guidelines for a healthy lifestyle. This value metric is used to build a simple pathway to trusted outcomes that were previously too confusing, expensive, or just not fun.

Some of the things work for some of the people some of the time and Technology Enabled Behavior Change for Health

Doug McClure
October 11, Location: Room 30 BK


Hea!thrageous is a health service powered by a technology platform that helps individuals to shed unhealthy habits and create lasting health behavior change. The service and technology platform is based on early research conducted at the Partners HealthCare Center for Connected Health. That research showed the power of biometric feedback loops in health and wellness and something that has become popularly known as the quantified self. But, subsequent research and large scale market implementations have continued to show that behavior change comes from different motivations – inspirations, rewards, game play, communities, etc. By creating a synthesis of behavior change models that is powered by web, mobile and machine learning technologies; Healthrageous is creating a one-to-one, ultimately personalized experience that enables each of us to achieve our health goals.

Developing and Testing a Text Message Delivered Intervention for Smoking Cessation

Beth Bock
Brown University
October 18, Location: Room 233 BK


There is growing interest in behavioral interventions delivered through mobile and computer platforms. However, using new platforms for treatment delivery requires developing new approaches and adapting older methods of providing treatment that are concordant with the ways in which technology is used, the preferences and use patterns of the target audience, and the limitations of the technology itself. TXT-2-Quit is an 8-week smoking cessation program designed for younger adult smokers who use text messaging. The experience of conducting TXT-2-Quit included qualitative formative work and a pilot randomized clinical trial. This presentation will highlight how methods of participant recruitment, our approach to providing counseling, and content and timing of the intervention were changed driven by the mobile platform.

The “App Store” for Health

Ken Mandl
Director, Intelligent Health Laboratory
Boston Children’s Hospital Informatics Program
Associate Professor, Harvard Medical School
October 25, Location: 30 BK


We use electronic health records at work, but iPhones at home. Which do we prefer? Mandl presents a new approach to health information technology whereby healthcare gets an “App Store” of its own.Despite the $48 billion dollar Federal investment in health information technology, doctors and hospitals have extraordinary difficulty implementing and using electronic health records (EHRs). How should Medicine construct an intelligent health system that facilitates rapid learning, innovation and transformation in wellness, health care, public health, and research?Mandl presents the SMART Platform (, which capacitates EHRs and consumer-facing systems to run substitutable apps. As Mandl described in the New England Journal of Medicine, this software architecture supports creation and sustainability of an extensible ecosystem of apps, and stimulates a market for competition on value and price. The design principle of substitutability produces systems where a physician or researcher or a patient who wishes to add new functionality can simply delete an existing app and download a better one.Mandl discusses the rapidly approaching tipping point in Medicine’s strategy for managing data and information for health and discovery.

The Communication Revolution and Health Inequalities in the 21st Century: Promises and Pitfalls

K. “Vish” Viswanath
Harvard School of Public Health
November 1, Location: 30 BK


The radical and transformative developments in Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) offer unprecedented opportunities to enhance population and individual health. At the same time, given the current context in which these technologies are being deployed and used — inequities that characterize health AND communications across different social groups -race and ethnicity, social class, and nations raises important questions for public health research, policy and practice. This presentation will characterize communication inequalities, link them to health inequalities and offer exemplar solutions to address the inequalities.

PHI Open House

Short presentations from PHI Faculty
Details and video
November 8, Location: 30 BK

Models of Behavior Change: Implications and Challenges

Wayne Velicer
University of Rhode Island
November 15, Location: 30 BK


Models of Behavior Change are different from Models of Behavior in four fundamental ways. First, models of behavior change focus on dynamic variables rather than static variable. Dynamic variables like psychosocial and behavioral variables are open to change. Static variables like past history and demographic variables cannot be easily modified. Second, the focus is on the individual evolutionary process. Models of Behavior Change need to model change over time. The nature of the change process and the pattern of change over time are critical. Third, models of behavior change need to be generalizable across behaviors. Models specific to a single behavior do little to advance science. Variables (manifest variables) will change across behaviors but constructs (latent variables) will not. Fourth, constructs that are curvilinear over time should be common in behavior change models. Typically, a person makes no effort to change a behavior, and then makes increasing effort, and then decreases effort as change becomes stable. Linear models, applied to curvilinear models will greatly underestimate the relationship. Models of behavior change will also result in a shift in focus for model testing with more emphasis on: (a) effect sizes estimation rather than traditional Null Hypothesis Testing; (b) Using methods like mediation analysis to identifying the mechanisms of behavior change; (c) Focusing on multivariate models to capture all aspects of the change process; (d) Focusing on longitudinal methods to include the temporal dimension; and (e) Testing theories through intervention development.

Wearable Systems to Monitor Responses to Rehabilitation Interventions

Paolo Bonato
Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering, Harvard University
Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, Harvard Medical School
November 29, Location: 30 BK


The concept of monitoring individuals in the home and community settings was first proposed more than 50 years ago, when Holter monitoring was proposed (in the late 1940s) and later adopted (in the 1960s) as a clinical tool. However, technologies to fully enable such vision were lacking and only sporadic and rather obtrusive monitoring techniques were available for several decades. Over the past decade, we have witnessed a great deal of progress in the field of wearable sensors and systems. Advances in this field have finally provided the tools to implement and deploy technology with the capabilities required to achieve effective patients’ home monitoring. These technologies provide the tools to achieve early diagnosis of diseases such as congestive heart failure, prevention of chronic conditions such as diabetes, improved clinical management of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease, and the ability to promptly respond to emergency situations such as seizures in patients with epilepsy and cardiac arrest in subjects undergoing cardiovascular monitoring. Current research efforts are focused on the development of systems enabling clinical applications. The current focus on developing and deploying wearable systems targeting specific clinical applications has the potential of leading to clinical adoption within the next five to ten years. In this talk, we will specifically focus on recent developments that appear to make the adoption of wearable technology attractive in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation.

A New Wave of Patient-Centered Care: Technology-Supported Apprenticeship in the Management of Chronic Disease

John Moore
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
December 6, Location: 30 BK


Chronic disease is the most important cause of morbidity and mortality in developed countries, and the cost of its management under the current standard of care is unsustainable. The thesis of this talk is that apprenticeship as a paradigm of healthcare delivery, when supported by technological scaffolding and advanced communication tools, can improve the experience, clinical outcomes, and cost-effectiveness of chronic disease management. A software platform to support apprenticeship in the management of chronic disease, called CollaboRhythm, has been developed over the past 5 years. This platform is dramatically different than typical health information technology tools because it was designed to embrace the contribution of the patient and to support learning rather than to serve as a documentation and billing tool for physicians. Informed by research in computer supported cooperative work, it aims to maximally support effective collaboration between clinician and patient while being minimally intrusive in their interactions. Informed by pedagogical research, it aims to support techniques that have been validated in apprenticeship-based learning models such as scaffolding, modeling, articulation, coaching, reflection, and exploration. Randomized-controlled trials of apprenticeship applied to diabetes and hypertension management are being conducted to validate this new paradigm of healthcare delivery as well as the supporting CollaboRhythm platform.

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