CITRIS Health Care Initiative Employs IT to Tame Costs and Boost Access

Dear CITRIS friends,

California’s health care challenge is big. And it is getting bigger. A host of excellent new—and expensive—life-extending procedures, our aging population, and the growth of administrative costs drive steep annual increases in the percentage of federal GDP consumed by health care costs. In 2000 it was 13.8 percent; today it is over 18 percent. And while those fortunate enough to have good insurance and access to top hospitals get excellent care, many of California’s residents are tragically underserved. The CITRIS Health Care Initiative is our big effort to employ IT to tame costs and boost access, making excellent and affordable health care available to all Californians.

With the recent appointments of Dr. Jay Han as the CITRIS Medical Director and of Edmund Seto as the associate faculty co-director of the CITRIS Health Care Initiative, that program will soon be sailing under full steam. Professor Seto, whose work is profiled in this issue of the newsletter, represents the public health side of the program, dedicated to keeping people well in their homes and neighborhoods while avoiding chronic problems like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and asthma.

Professor Seto works to deploy air-quality sensors in creative ways and generate new insight about the shifting pollution levels in different parts of our urban environments. His work with Android-based sensors is also exploring the health benefits–and costs–of different kinds of urban environments, from parks and greenbelts to shopping malls and industrial areas. Finally, he is working with Professor of Engineering and former CITRIS Director Ruzena Bajcsy to protect the security and privacy of the great amount of wireless personal data that is constantly available. Data security will be key to the success of so many of the advances in this field.

Dr. Han, our new Medical Director, is an Associate Professor in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the University of California Davis School of Medicine.  He is also the Associate Director of the NIDRR-funded UC Davis Rehabilitation Research Training Center (RRTC) in Neuromuscular Diseases, and the Director of the Neuromuscular Medicine Fellowship.

Professor Han’s UC Davis lab is developing functional outcome measures for patients with neuromuscular disorders and he collaborates with researchers at both UC Berkeley and UC Merced on new technologies that support rehabilitation. He used his clinic, for example, to help professors Seto and Bajcsy calibrate their CalFit individual monitoring devices.

Dr. Han is an outstanding clinician, and an enthusiastic leader of the multi-campus, multidisciplinary research that is at the heart of CITRIS.  He follows our successful first medical director, Dr. Javeed Siddiqui, in this role, and he will be an excellent addition to our health care ‘brain trust’ of Dr. Tom Nesbitt, CITRIS chief scientist at UC Davis, Professor Seto, and Mr. Steve DeMello, Director of Healthcare at CITRIS @ Berkeley. They have their work cut out for them, and I look forward to watching them show the world what brilliant IT innovation, multi-disciplinary collaboration, and institutional dedication can do.

Thank you for your continued interest and support of CITRIS. Keep up the good work!

Paul K. Wright 
Director, CITRIS and the Banatao Institute@CITRIS Berkeley