UCSF Awarded $9.75 Million to Create Platform Accelerating Mobile Health Research

NIH Award a Response to Health eHeart Study Success

By Scott Maier

stock image of woman holding a smartphone with a health app on the screen

Building on the success of the Health eHeart Study at UC San Francisco, the National Institutes of Health has awarded $9.75 million to UCSF over the next five years for creation of Health ePeople, a platform that will enable investigators to conduct mobile and wireless health research in a less costly, more streamlined manner.

The research platform will accelerate mobile health (mHealth) by providing researchers with easy access to a large cohort of volunteers who have agreed to participate in the research, along with a quick, affordable means for collecting their health data through mobile and wireless technologies.

Join the Health ePeople Study

The Health ePeople platform won’t be ready to enroll new participants for several months, but researchers say interested individuals can sign-up now through the Health eHeart Study and will be given the option to transfer into the new platform as soon as enrollment begins.

Any adult with a working email address can join the study.

Health ePeople builds off the innovative Health eHeart Study, which harnesses the power of online and mobile technology to gather cardiovascular data from study participants through devices such as smartphone apps, ECG smartphone cases and portable blood pressure cuffs. With a goal of 1 million participants, Health eHeart already has more than 30,000 people enrolled from around the world, with no study centers other than the one at UCSF.

“The primary goal of Health ePeople is to provide a resource enabling convenient and efficient mobile and wireless health research,” said co-principal investigator Jeffrey Olgin, MD, professor of medicine and chief of cardiology at UCSF. “It will help investigators collect mobile health data via integration with sensors, devices and apps, deliver online surveys, connect with external data sources including electronic health records, and use novel methods for ascertaining and adjudicating clinical outcome events.”

The other co-principal investigators of the study are Gregory Marcus, MD, MAS, director of clinical research in the UCSF Division of Cardiology, and Mark Pletcher, MD, MPH, professor of epidemiology and biostatistics and director of the Informatics and Research Innovation Program at the UCSF Clinical and Translational Sciences Institute.

Jeffrey Olgin, MD

Greg Marcus, MD, MAS

Mark Pletcher, MD, MPH

Health ePeople will use data from patients enrolled in the Health eHeart Study and recruited externally. It will have several external advisory groups in data standards, technical, research, participation, ethics/advisory and business.

The team is planning to collaborate and coordinate with other major ongoing mHealth-related projects, including the federal Mobile Sensor Data-to-Knowledge (MD2K) Center of Excellence, the non-profit Open mHealth, the NIH Precision Medicine Initiative, and the nongovernmental PCORnet and PCORI National Patient-Centered Clinical Research Network.

Building Off the Health eHeart Study

Since its launch in 2013, the Health eHeart Study has implemented a user-friendly interface to collect patient-reported outcomes, validate survey data and integrate with multiple sensors, devices and apps. It uses modular electronic consenting and options for external investigators to utilize and enroll their own participants.

A study management portal with real-time dashboard and flexible messaging system also has been created, along with a private, secure database and data management system. These platforms have been adapted to take advantage of emerging technology and cutting-edge methods.

“Given the research backgrounds of the Health eHeart principal investigators and the fact that cardiovascular disease remains the most common killer in the United States and the world, our initial emphasis has been on cardiovascular disease,” Marcus said. “However, we and others interested in utilizing our infrastructure quickly realized the immediate applicability to other disciplines. Indeed, broader interests in diet, physical activity, geolocation and smartphone use patterns have piqued the interests of many different collaborators to utilize our platform.”

The Health eHeart Study has garnered national interest and partnerships with several external organizations and industry. Investigators from urology, obesity, pulmonary transplant, neurology and oncology have established research protocols using the study infrastructure.

“We are really excited to develop products that researchers can use to do mHealth-related research more efficiently and effectively,” Pletcher said. “We plan to develop a spectrum of different options for investigators to use for their research, including full-service, web-based intervention systems to simple data collection ‘modules’ that can be plugged into existing web resources.”

UC San Francisco (UCSF) is a leading university dedicated to promoting health worldwide through advanced biomedical research, graduate-level education in the life sciences and health professions, and excellence in patient care. It includes top-ranked graduate schools of dentistry, medicine, nursing and pharmacy, a graduate division with nationally renowned programs in basic, biomedical, translational and population sciences, as well as a preeminent biomedical research enterprise and two top-ranked hospitals, UCSF Medical Center and UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco.