Mobile health data may offer new pathways to better patient care

UC Davis awarded $1.2 million to advance state’s precision medicine initiative

Reposted from the UC Davis Health System News Room | November 15, 2016 

A UC Davis-led team has been awarded a $1.2 million grant from California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM) to explore the use of personalized mobile health data to improve chronic disease management and care. The funding will launch a demonstration project aimed at providing patients with a contextual and easy method of tracking and sharing their detailed personal health data with care providers to develop new options for self-care.

“Our goal is to develop a new model of self-managed, digitally driven health care, one that adapts and supports a person’s unique daily life so that it is specific to that individual in a way that improves and sustains health,” said Nick Anderson, associate professor of public health at UC Davis and director of the university’s biomedical informatics research. “This project is designed to link the extensive capabilities of clinical electronic health systems with patient-provided data from personal smartphones, which will allow clinicians to develop targeted and dynamic views of an individual’s health and self-monitoring. We believe that placing patients at the center of the digital health ecosystem is an ideal complement to the state’s effort to accelerate precision medicine.”

The California Initiative to Advance Precision Medicine (CIAPM) was launched by the Governor in 2015 to provide the infrastructure and resources necessary to advance precision medicine-oriented data, tools and applications in California.  The concept of “precision medicine” involves the use of advanced computing tools to aggregate, integrate and analyze vast amounts of data from research, clinical, personal, environmental and population-health settings to better understand diseases and develop and deliver more exact diagnostics, therapeutics and prevention measures.

Anderson, in collaboration with colleagues at UC San Francisco, UC Berkeley and the mobile- health analytics company Overlap Health, plans to test a patient-centered mobile-health system with chronic disease management study participants suffering from either hypertension or depression. The project, titled “Personal Mobile and Contextual Precision Health,” will use both Android and Apple iOS platforms to securely capture physical activity, location and environmental data together with alert-driven, momentary assessments of behavioral and physiological data.

“The exponential growth of physiological, behavioral and environmental data generated through easy-to-use consumer devices such as mobile phones are unprecedented sources of personalized and contextual health information,” said Ida Sim, professor of medicine at UCSF and a research expert in medical informatics. “If that information can be linked to clinical health data, it can provide very dynamic and detailed views of a person’s chronic condition and their evolving state of health.”

The research team says having more precise and contextual health data, created at the individual level, could help health-care experts establish “digital biomarkers” of disease which, in turn, could greatly accelerate the development of companion diagnostics for current and future precision medicine therapies at a broad, population-level scale. Having accurate companion diagnostics, for example, can potentially triple the success rate for therapeutic drug approval during the clinical development process.

Because the collection of health data, especially via mobile platforms, along with integration in health records, raises a range of potential health-privacy issues, Anderson said he and his colleagues are making patient engagement as well as data security and privacy a key research objective in their project. They plan to convene participatory-design sessions with patient participants and include patient representation on their advisory groups to ensure they meet the highest standards of current and future patient health-engagement concerns and expectations.

“Not only are we looking at the collection of data and its use in diagnostics and care for chronic disease, but this project will also focus on potential policies and new approaches to address the critical issues surrounding personal data access and public use of health information,” added Anderson. “Privacy and security are fundamental to everything we do in digital health. Having CIAPM support for testing new concepts, use of mobile technologies and personal health-data sharing will help us identify areas of focus and evolving needs for scalability.”

The project is focusing on hypertension and depression to establish its precision medicine models because the diseases are common across all populations and communities. Hypertension and depression also pose significant economic, societal and personal costs, as well as treatment challenges for providers because patient information beyond the clinic exam room often lacks the consistency and quality needed to make well-informed clinical evaluations and recommendations.

“As the digital environment between patient and health systems continues to integrate and expand, more and more patient care will be taking place outside of the clinic environment. Yet for care to be patient-appropriate and successful it will require much more detailed and frequent information about each individual’s health and well-being,” noted David Lindeman, director of Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) and the Banatao Institute, a University of California consortium based at UC Berkeley. “Indeed, this could be considered as more than just precision medicine. We’re really talking about precision health and health care for all.”


The UC Davis School of Medicine is among the nation’s leading medical schools, recognized for its research and primary-care programs. The school offers fully accredited master’s degree programs in public health and in informatics, and its combined M.D.-Ph.D. program is training the next generation of physician-scientists to conduct high-impact research and translate discoveries into better clinical care. Along with being a recognized leader in medical research, the school is committed to serving underserved communities and advancing rural health. For more information, visit UC Davis School of Medicine at medschool.ucdavis.edu.