In 2014, Hank Foley, executive vice president for academic affairs, research and economic development at the UM System, set out to elevate the University of Missouri’s position as an economic driver in the state and nation. In part, he sought to create a culture of innovation among faculty where the outcomes of their research and scholarship could convert to products that improve lives.
“With total research expenditures well over $270 million annually at the University of Missouri, we are committed to being included among the very best Midwestern land-grant institutions when it comes to converting the products of our research and scholarship into innovations that will improve life,” Foley said.
Foley points to the work of Curators’ Professor Marilyn Rantz in the MU Sinclair School of Nursing and Professor Marjorie Skubic in the MU College of Engineering as an example of such a translation from labspace to marketplace.
Rantz and Skubic have collaborated for more than a decade on health monitoring and alert systems that use sensor technology to track everything from a person’s vital signs to risk of falling and report back to healthcare providers. Their initial sensors were first installed in TigerPlace, an assisted living community in Columbia, in 2005 where the two tracked improvements in patient outcomes based on the technology. Since that time the technology has moved to more than a dozen assisted living centers and hospitals throughout the state.
Now, Rantz and Skubic are working to commercialize the technology for residential use with the goal of providing better care for patients as well as reduced costs for individuals and health systems.
“Consider an elderly man who lives alone and falls and breaks his shoulder; when he falls, the system of sensors detects his fall and sends for help immediately,” said Skubic. “Additionally, the physicians could evaluate video of the fall captured by the sensors to determine how the man fell or what led to the fall. The fall data also helps medical professionals educate the patient on how to prevent similar falls in the future.”
According to Rantz, the technology can go beyond the alert of physical falls and can actually detect illnesses as early as two weeks before a person might take notice due to the continual monitoring of vitals.
While the in-home application of the health monitoring and alert system is new in the residential setting, the MU Sinclair School of Nursing is helping to get the technology to patients through its program Sinclair@Home. The program utilizes registered nurse care coordination to develop independent living plans for patients that are paired with the in-home sensor technology to help patients meet health and wellness goals and maintain their independence.
Learn more at sinclairathome.com.