Seminar Features IT-Powered Research, Healthcare

By Anna Lynn Spitzer

Irvine, Calif., August 6, 2009 -- Information technology was front and center this week in the SURF-IT Summer Lunchtime Seminar Series presentations. From online research resources to Web 2.0-powered healthcare-delivery systems, presenters Julia Gelfand and Mark Bachman demonstrated the higher power of IT.

Julia Gelfand
Gelfand: Finding information is easy.

Gelfand, applied sciences and engineering librarian, highlighted library services and resources that support information technology development. A recently redesigned library Web site and content management system with enhanced services and collections can better assist students with their research activities. On the site, Gelfand created a subject guide specifically geared to SURF-IT researchers, which contains tips for finding information, best practices for good scholarship, and hints for specific projects as well as several additional resources:

She walked the audience through site navigation, stressing the importance of learning how to use not just free resources but those with subscriptions. “Finding information is really the easy part,” Gelfand said, “but it’s evaluating it, applying, storing, and then citing it when you’re recalling it that is most important.”

The diverse group of available databases, many of which contain replicated information, makes it more important than ever, she said, to know where resources are indexed.

Mark Bachman
Bachman: Integrating solutions is a must.

Gelfand said there has been a steady decline in the use of subscription databases recently because researchers are using Google or Google Scholar directly. The decline, coupled with the current economic crisis, jeopardizes the survival of these databases. “We’re quite concerned about the future without these tools,” she said.

She introduced audience to several available databases, including Web of Science, Inspec, biological abstracts and zoological records, demonstrating a simple search for health monitoring. Her search located comprehensive journal references, including abstracts and references with hotlinks to those journals that are indexed, as well as, in some cases, citations. The UCE links match the citation with UCI’s holdings, both electronic and print, as well as holdings throughout the UC system. If a reference is not available, it can be requested through inter-library loan.

Other tools that might be of interest to the students, Gelfand said, are Plunkett’s Research Online, which contains research trends compiled every six months; and Advisory for IT, which tracks the use of IT in different situations, and contains current applications and other material.

Gelfand’s foray into health-monitoring research was a perfect segue to the afternoon’s second speaker, Mark Bachman, assistant professor of electrical engineering and computer science.

Bachman told the group that the healthcare device market is $140 billion and growing at 8% per year, thanks to the graying of the world’s population. “We’re living longer and healthier lives,” he said.

In the U.S., 35 million people are older than 65. That number is expected to rise to 54 million in 2020 and 86 million by 2050. “And it’s the same curve in every country; it’s a global phenomenon,” he added.

Researchers, and medical device and biomedical companies are rushing to meet the demand.

But a lot of the devices they produce never make it to market because of inadequate power, issues with reliability and lack of integration with existing infrastructures.

Bachman believes his research group has the answer. They are developing an interactive healthcare delivery system called Telios –Telepresence Interactive Operating System. 

Bachman, who described himself as a “gadget person,” is intent on integrating Telios into real-world applications. His research team is focused on making Telios readily available to consumers, adaptable and easy to use.

“We’ve got too much technology … all kinds of gadgets and they’re all niche solutions,” he said. “We need integrative solutions. Healthcare systems should be designed around humans, not the other way around.”

One problem: a common standard or platform. “At UCI, we’re putting a lot of effort into making a universal [platform] that’s intuitive and user-friendly for all these gadgets to talk to each other.”

That platform is Web 2.0. “There are very, very few standards in the history of engineering that have encompassed so many different applications,” Bachman said of the online, interactive technology.

Telios can connect the healthcare institution, the doctor and the patient inexpensively and reliably. Depending on which devices are attached to it, the system can monitor weight, blood pressure, heart rate, glucose levels and more. It’s scalable, portable and wireless, and can be integrated into home entertainment systems, cell phones, desktop computers or laptops.

“Our goal is to bring all of these very different technologies and protocols under one umbrella, and use that to deliver an intuitive low-cost solution for people who need at-home monitoring,” said Bachman.