PDAs, cell phones have possible application as health monitors

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RTI Researchers are working on computer applications that could see personal digital assistants (PDAs) and cell phones being used as health monitors. This is part of an effort to promote the development of interoperable personal health record applications that address specific health challenges.

The RTI research team is funded by a $300,000 grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) through its Project HealthDesign: Rethinking the Power and Potential of Personal Health Records national program. The team will work with The Cooper Institute, a Dallas-based preventive medical research and education center, to develop a personal health record application that will encourage sedentary adults to become more physically active and reduce their risk for chronic diseases.

"Personal health records will play a key role in the national effort to transform our health care system into one that provides patient-centered care," said Barbara Massoudi, MPH, PhD, a senior research health scientist at RTI and the project's director. "The application will allow patients to monitor their own health as well as help to improve communication between patients and health care providers, leading to a higher quality of care and promoting positive behavior changes."

The research team will work with 30 participants 40 years of age or above to determine what elements they find most beneficial when monitoring their health and physical activity and what types of feedback are most influential in their decisions whether to continue the program. The researchers will also try to determine how the application can be integrated into health care in ways that will improve the communication and coordination of care.

"Successful interventions must meet individuals where they are, intersecting with their daily lives, their attitudes, and their stage of change," Massoudi said. "We're working to create a model that will do just that."

Once developed, the personal health record will deliver a highly individualized, behaviorally based lifestyle physical activity intervention to sedentary adults through computers, PDAs, and telephones.

The program will include biomonitoring data that will track fluctuations in weight and physical activity and will send messages to patients when they need to alter their exercise habits or visit a physician.

The personal health monitor also will have the ability to focus on the needs and preferences of minority populations.