‘Showcase’ Spotlights Digital Health using Digital Connection

By Ben Boulden

Digital health uses interactive video, data and imaging devices as well as a patient’s computer, smart phone or tablet to deliver specialized medical services and expertise.

The Clipbeat device will allow health care professionals to listen to a patient's heartbeat during a virtual visit.

The Clipbeat device will allow health care professionals to listen to a patient’s heartbeat during a virtual visit.

“The pandemic has removed barriers and allowed accelerated growth of digital health care. It is expected to see double digit growth in the coming decade, according to Research and Markets,” said Shuk-Mei Ho, Ph.D., UAMS vice chancellor for research. “In this context, it is important for UAMS and UAMS Health to continue to invest in research and innovation in this area. Commercialization and translation of innovative technologies to new tools in the clinics will benefit patients and fuel future economic growth in the region.”

The showcases foster communication and collaboration in the UAMS research community. Starting with the first showcase event in late 2012, the College of Medicine has sponsored what began as informal wine-and-cheese gatherings where the college’s research scientists casually present research posters and discuss their findings with each other, donors and interested students and faculty. The showcases have moved to using a virtual, live video connection since the start of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

“It definitely helps the research community to get together and learn what other people are doing,” said Hari Eswaran, Ph.D. “I didn’t know of a couple of the digital health projects that were on campus. I learned about them through the showcase. I miss the physical presence, but the virtual showcase still delivers a lot of value and new awareness.”

Eswaran is the director of research for the UAMS Institute for Digital Health & Innovation (IDHI) and a professor in the College of Medicine Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

The Clipbeat device as seen from the side and attached to a smart phone. The device was developed by UAMS researchers and a patent is pending.

The Clipbeat device as seen from the side and attached to a smart phone. The device was developed by UAMS researchers and a patent is pending.

The institute’s interim director, Joseph Sanford, M.D., and Kevin Sexton, M.D., collaborated with IDHI mechanical engineer Adria Abella Villafranca in an initiative called Clipbeat that Abella Villafranca presented at the showcase.

They and other UAMS researchers have developed a stethoscope “clip and bell,” Abella Villafranca said. The inexpensive plastic piece can plug into any smart phone so a physician performing a virtual visit remotely with a patient can listen to their heartbeat.

“We are trying to build an affordable option for rural areas,” Abella Villafranca said. “We see a need there. Stethoscopes can cost up to $200 or more. We wanted to build something quick and simple for those patients.”

He said he also learned at the showcase about a nationally recognized research effort that he wasn’t aware of before and could see how the showcase could foster new collaboration.

“I really was excited to hear the Clipbeat presentation,” said Nalin Payakachat, Ph.D., associate professor in the UAMS College of Pharmacy Department of Pharmacy Practice. “Also, another presentation about analyzing social media using natural language processing also was very informative.

“I learned other groups are doing some very cool things at UAMS. It was a great chance to learn what’s going on in research university-wide. The collaboration across UAMS is fascinating,” she said.

Payakachat’s presentation was about a study she worked on that compared the effectiveness of lactation consultations by phone with lactation consultations using a digital health virtual visit. She said often nursing mothers only receive instruction and information about breastfeeding shortly after giving birth. The study gave some mothers a chance to participate in some follow-up to that.

The study found that although the educational benefit to the mothers from a phone-only conversation was the same as with a virtual video visit, there was a “significant difference,” she said.

“We observed one benefit from the virtual visit versus phone-call only: You get connected with the real person because you can see them,” she said. “The face-to-face is better in terms of perceived social support.”

Eswaran was part of the same research team with Payakachat and also presented findings of a similar study of women who have diabetes and a high-risk pregnancy. The study found that the health outcomes for those mothers were the same whether they had virtual visits or in-person consultations about managing diabetes and pregnancy.

Posters at the showcase, using text and graphics, described the work of many different research project groups:

  • Auscultation Device that Attaches to a Smart Device — Joseph Sanford, Kevin Sexton, Adria Abella Villafranca, Nikiya Simpson, Melody Greer, Samir Jenkins, Aaron Storey and William Kalkbrnner.
  • Virtual Reality Distraction During Awake Deep Brain Stimulation Lead Placement — B.W. Elberson, A. Merchant, A. Abdeldayem and Erika Petersen.
  • Feasibility of Telelactation Service: Results from a Mixed Methods Analysis — Nalin Payakachat, Hari Eswaran, Sarah Rhoads, Hannah McCoy, Song Ounpraseuth and Curtis Lowery.
  • Opioid Treatment Mobile App (OPTIMA): Feasibility, Usage and Pilot Outcomes — Andrew James, Ron Thompson Jr., Mary Bollinger, Michael Mancino and Clint Kilts.
  • Methods and Systems for Predicting the Effective of Inhaled and Infused Anesthetics — Ali Z. Al-Alawi, Kaylee Henry, Lauren Crimmins, Patrick Bonasso, Abul Hayat, Melvin Dassinger, Jeffrey Burford, Hanna Jensen, Joseph Sanford, Jingxian Wu, Kevin Sexton and Morten Jensen.
  • Utilization of Telehealth in Arkansas during COVID-19 — Taiwo Adesoba, Arina Eyimina, Clare Brown, Mick Tilford and Ben Amick.
  • Natural Language Processing and Visualization to Digest Complex Themes Discussed in Online Caregiver Support Forums — Catherine Shoults, Michael Rutherford, Aliza Brown, Corey Hayes, Carolyn Greene, Merideth Addicott, Aaron Kemp, Jennifer Gan, Jonathan Bona and Linda Larson-Prior.
  • Utilization of a Neuroinformatics Research Platform (ARIES) to Develop Quantitative Tools for Clinical Assessment and Treatment of Parkinson’s Disease Patients in Rural Arkansas — Tuhin Virmani, Lakshmi Pillai, Aliyah Glover, Aaron Kemp, Horace Spencer, Michael Rutherford, Phillip Farmer, Shorabuddin Syed, Hari Eswaran, Mitesh Lotia, Jonathan Bona, Linda Larson-Prior and Fred Prior.
  • A Pilot Study Evaluating the Use of Mobile Health Technology in Older Adults with Heart Failure: Foundation for a Clinical Trial — L. Leflar, Sarah Rhoads and M. Harris.
  • Potential Health Care Cost Saving of the UAMS Nurse Call Center for Obstetric Services — Nalin Payakachat, Yi-Shan Sung, Naleen Raj Bhandari, Wanda Whitehurst, Susan Fogelman, Hari Eswaran, Tina Benton and Curtis Lowery.
  • Implementation of an Interprofessional 1-800-COVID-19 Hotline Call Center Training Simulation — Kevin Sexton, Kathryn Neill, Kristen Sterba, Jared Gowen, Layla Simmons, Megan Lane and Joseph Sanford.
  • Shifting to Virtual Research in a Childhood Obesity Trial — Jeannette Lee and Jessica Snowden.
  • Evaluation of a Telemedicine Program Managing High-Risk Pregnant Women with Pre-existing Diabetes — Hari Eswaran, Yi-Shan Sung, Donglan Zhang and Curtis Lowery.
  • Telestroke Quality Assessment Surveys; Our Plan for System-wide Assessment — Aliza Brown.