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2015-05-20

A strong duo as Guest Professors at Halmstad University

– the first Bennet Professor is Misha Pavel

Misha Pavel is Halmstad University’s first Bennet Professor. Together with Holly Jimison, also a Halmstad University Guest Professor, Misha Pavel’s research focuses on monitoring human behaviour for a proactive and patient-centred healthcare.

In Swedish.

– The cost of global healthcare is rising continuously, and since we live longer, there is also an increase in disorders associated with aging. Although 30 percent of premature mortality is due to genetic factors, more than 40 percent is due to poor health behaviours, accounting for a significant portion of the cost. At the same time advances in sensor and networking technology combined with computational modelling, have enabled unprecedented opportunity to monitor and interpret behaviours. Taking advantage of this confluence, we have been investigating ways to use technology to help us improve our health behaviours. The advance monitoring technology combined with computational modelling targeted to support better behaviours, enables in addition significant enhancements of our understanding of the underlying brain processes and the neurodegenerative disorders. We call this nascent interdisciplinary area behavioural informatics, says Misha Pavel.

Misha Pavel and Holly Jimison have been working together in the healthy aging domain for over 20 years. Their individual achievements are impressive, but their combined expertise is extraordinary and inspiring. Pavel and Jimison have, for many years, been monitoring older people in their homes with the ambition of improving their quality of life.

Misha Pavel is Halmstad University’s first Bennet Professor. Together with Holly Jimison, also a Halmstad University Guest Professor, Misha Pavel’s research focuses on monitoring human behaviour for a proactive and patient-centred healthcare. Pavel is a Guest Professor at School of Information Technology and Jimison is a Guest Professor at School of Health and Welfare at Halmstad University.

Continuous monitoring for health and wellbeing

The assessment of health-related behaviours such as exercise – both physical and cognitive – eating habits, sleep and socialisation combined with predictive models is an important prerequisite for generating optimal interventions. Specifically, the outputs from the sensors processed by the models are used in a coaching platform, created by Jimison. The platform provides coaching support that allows a single coach to manage a large number of people to help them to improve their health behaviours. 

– Continuous monitoring and statistical computing enables tracking individual participants and detect subtle deviations from their baseline or ”normal” behaviour.  This information can be used by the coaching platform to potentially remediate or slow down decline. Rather than focusing separately on different aspects of health behaviours, for example sleep, exercise or diet, we try to get a holistic perspective. We are on a threshold to a revolution in the way we deal with health behaviour change, says Holly Jimison.

Healthcare coaching through Skype

In their prior work in Oregon Health and Science University, Jimison and Pavel have monitored and coached more than 40 patients testing the platform in improving a healthy lifestyle in older adults. The participants have been monitored unobtrusively in their homes, and this information has been used by the coaching platform to generate participant-specific coaching emails edited and further personalised by the coach.

– Although the asynchronous contact is effective, it is also important to complement it with face-to-face contacts with the coach. In addition to the emails we, therefore, also use synchronous communication technology like Skype in our coaching. As it turned out, the outcome of this communication strategy is not only physical improvements, but also social and emotional. In addition to communicating with the coach, the participants started to communicate with each other forming a social support network, says Holly Jimison.

Real-time exercise coaching

In collaboration with the University of California at Berkeley, their current research programme is focused on the development of a coaching system for helping older adults to exercise. Using Kinect cameras, the team developed real-time computer vision algorithms that assess and evaluate the participants’ movements during chair exercises. The coaching process is interactive – the patient can follow a coach’s movements on a screen and receive immediate feedback since the patient’s movements are analysed by the coaching platform in real time.

During the last year, they have been evaluating this system with ten individuals with an average age of 85. The health coaching platform is still in a research stage, but Pavel and Jimison have been collaborating with a range of different companies – from larger corporations like Google and Intel, to smaller sensor companies – in order to enable creation of commercial products.

Privacy and security

An obvious question that comes to mind involves the privacy of the participants.

– The patients are willing to give up a part of their privacy in order to ”age in place” and feel safe at home. It is, however, important that the participants have full control over who has access to their data.  This includes the coach, formal caregivers and family members. In general, people are willing to give up aspects of privacy for valuable benefits – it is a privacy–benefit trade-off, says Holly Jimison.

The duo's goal at Halmstad University

Pavel and Jimison want to support Halmstad University in developing collaborative and multidisciplinary projects.

– One important goal, recognised by Halmstad University, is to get engineers and clinicians to work together and to understand each other’s culture, so that they can cooperate effectively. Halmstad University has a very good combination of theoretical and applied interests. Applications are absolutely necessary to see if a theory is correct, says Misha Pavel.

– Our second goal is to strengthen the relationship between the USA and Sweden. The global health problems need to be looked at from many angles, with multiple solutions from different cultures and countries. Combining our work is essential, says Holly Jimison.

Text and photo: LOUISE WANDEL

About Misha Pavel

Misha Pavel is a Professor of Practice jointly appointed between the College of Computer and Information Sciences and the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University in the USA. Dr. Pavel came from a position of a Program Director of Smart and Connected Health in Boston. Previously he served as chair of the Department of Biomedical Engineering and as Director of the Point of Care Laboratory at Oregon Health & Science University. His earlier academic appointments included positions at New York University and Stanford University. His current research is at the intersection of multilevel computational modelling of complex behaviours of biological and cognitive systems, behavioural informatics, and augmented cognition. His most recent efforts are focused on fundamental science and technology that would enable the transformation of healthcare to be proactive, distributed and patient-centred. He has a Ph.D. in Experimental Psychology from New York University, an M.S. in Electrical Engineering from Stanford University, and a B.S. in Electrical Engineering from the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Misha Pavel is a Senior Member of IEEE. More information.external link

About Holly Jimison

Holly Jimison, is Professor of Practice at the Bouvé College of Health Sciences at Northeastern University in the USA. Jimison, who is a faculty member of both the College of Computer & Information Science and Bouvé College of Health Sciences, came to Northeastern from the National Institutes of Health, where she was a technology advisor involved in the Big Data Initiative for Monitoring Health Behaviors at Home and in the Environment. She previously was an Associate Professor in Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology with a joint appointment in Biomedical Engineering at Oregon Health & Science University, where her research involved technology for successful aging and scalable remote care. She is now the director of the Northeastern-based Consortium on Technology for Proactive Care, which has been created to develop a technology infrastructure for sustainable interventions that support continuity of care outside a hospital setting and promote long-term health behaviour change. More information.external link

Misha Pavel and Holly Jimison have, for many years, been monitoring older people in their homes with the ambition of improving their quality of life. Photo credit: El Secretario, Flickr

– One important goal, recognised by Halmstad University, is to get engineers and clinicians to work together and to understand each other’s culture, so that they can cooperate effectively. Halmstad University has a very good combination of theoretical and applied interests. Applications are absolutely necessary to see if a theory is correct, says Misha Pavel.

Guest Professors for three years

Misha Pavel and Holly Jimison will come to Halmstad University
approximately four times a year during their three years as Guest
Professors. They are in Halmstad now, until May 20. Next time they visit will be in September 2015.

Updated 2015-05-28