WVU-led project will leverage AI and digital health to tackle healthcare costs and disparities


Quality healthcare transcends the medical profession, as evidenced by a new project led by the University of West Virginia that includes not only health experts, but engineers, physicist, lawyer and data analyst commercial.

“Bridges in Digital Health,” which recently received $ 3 million from the National Science Foundation, hopes to address the combination of rising health care costs, the expansion of the country’s elderly population and disparities in health, especially in rural communities, through advancements in digital health and artificial intelligence and training the next generation of professionals to develop and deploy such advancements.

Digital health is a rapidly growing field that involves clinical and biomedical data, including prescriptions, medical images, ultrasound videos, electronic health records, and data from mobile and wearable devices, such as Fitbit. said Donald Adjeroh, principal investigator of the project and professor and associate. chair in the Lane department of computer science and electrical engineering.

Two of our path themes in the project focus on the use of data science and AI in two key areas of healthcare: namely, cardiovascular health (analysis of heart images, in particular, echocardiograms) and genomics (analysis and functional annotation of long non-encoding ribonucleic acids – a type of RNA – and their role in disease prediction and prognosis). “

Donald Adjeroh, principal investigator of the project

“In addition to traditional electronic health records, our health data will come from a variety of sources and devices, including portable devices such as portable cardiac ultrasound devices or handheld ECG monitors, low cost mobile activity monitors, Fitbits, smartwatches, social networks. media, etc. These portable devices and low-cost data sources are important for collecting health-related data from individuals in rural areas and outside the hospital setting, which is important for preventive care.

Adjeroh noted that various recent reports, including results from the WVU labs, document the successes of AI techniques on health issues, including detection of breast cancer, diagnosis of eye disease, reading ultrasound images. cardiac conditions, early prediction of acute renal failure, prediction of adverse drug reactions and visualization. neuronal structures of the brain.

“These methods have shown performance close to human performance and sometimes outperform human professionals on some of these tasks,” he said.

NSF funding will help establish a new model of higher education and internship to prepare students to work in collaborative teams to develop and apply data science and AI techniques to solve digital health problems. The project plans to train 24 funded and 40 unfunded master’s and doctoral students in different disciplines including engineering, computer science, medicine, health sciences, physical sciences and economics.

Gay Stewart, a physicist who heads the WVU Center for Excellence in STEM Education, is one of the co-researchers on the project.

“I’m focused on improving access to STEM careers for West Virginia,” said Stewart. “Much of my attention was focused on building the pipeline earlier, but traditional graduate programs don’t allow enough work through disciplinary silos to make the progress we need. The “bridges” will make it possible to meet these challenges, by preparing the trainees to work effectively. in transdisciplinary teams that develop cutting-edge, technology-driven solutions to challenging HR issues, particularly in rural communities. “

Stewart said the team will recruit participants from underserved groups – such as rural and first-generation students – into STEM.

“First-generation students tend to graduate from STEM at lower rates than their peers and are less likely to pursue higher education,” she said. “Yet we need their voices in this important work. I envision a much stronger motivation to pursue advanced studies when students can see the potential for meaningful impact on their families and communities.”

Dr Michael Ruppert, another co-investigator on the project, explained the role of research from a biomedical perspective.

“One of the stumbling blocks for biomedical researchers is that very diverse skill sets are needed to develop new knowledge by analyzing large data sets such as clinical data,” said Ruppert, Jo and Ben Statler. , chair of breast cancer research at WVU Cancer Institute and professor. of biochemistry at the Faculty of Medicine. “For example, you have to be good at biomedicine, which often involves moving molecules around the lab, and you also have to be able to move very large sets of digital data. The goal is to train yourself in order to generate students with all the necessary skills. “

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