Taking Medicine and Tech to the Next Level: Ranney on New Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health – GoLocalProv

Friday, July 31, 2020

GoLocalProv News Team

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Dr. Megan Ranney

"We are excited to announce the launch of the brand new Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health. This center represents a deep and innovative collaboration between our major university Brown and major academic medical center of Lifespan. Were excited to take digital health innovation to the next level here in Rhode Island," said Ranney, who is a regular guest on CNN as an expert on the response to the coronavirus.

"Now, more than ever, I think all of us know how important technology is to our life and so thinking about new ways that we can use this virtual world to help us stay healthy is just so important," she said.

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Collaboration as Key"We have a number of projects and services already in development and a number more under the planning stage," Ranney told GoLocal. "Right now, were working on things ranging from working with companies that are doing predictive analytics to decide if you actually have COVID symptoms or not; were working on projects with social media to try and identify when teens are in distress and need some extra help."

"We have projects working with telehealth in my own department Brown Emergency Medicine," she said. "We recently launched a new telecare initiative to try to extend access to care to Rhode Islanders so that they dont have to come into the emergency department for that initial evaluation."

"We have projects using wearables Fitbits and Apple watches to try and identify folks at risk of falls, to try to deliver in the moment interventions to help people be healthier. The idea is to get ideas that come from the community, from our patients, from our insurers, from the folks who are trying to deal with this new world and use the best science that Brown and Lifespan have to offer, to create products that really work and are enjoyable, so that we can maintain a connection to each other in the midst of COVID," said Ranney.

"There are so many exciting levels that we can expand to so the first step is getting all of us on zoom or on the phone and comfortable for both the doctors and the patients with doing these visits virtually," said Ranney. "The next step is remote monitoring, so ways for us to keep track of you at home and ways for us to keep track of you at home and ways for us to check in to do again check-ins through an Apple watch or through an app to see how you're doing to see if you need some extra care."

"There's some work going on at Lifespan right now with doing telehealth for hospice and for palliative care which especially in the midst of COVID-19 is just so critical because we don't want to expose vulnerable patients to folks coming into their home if we don't have to so there's a lot of exciting directions it can go in," said Ranney. "Again to me the best part of it is going to be when we get all these different modalities to work together -- when we use social media, when we use our Apple watches and our smartphones and when we use the best of video and telehealth into one seamless product that can help us to extend our workforce and keep people safe and keep people connected."

Equity at Center"Equity is a key pillar of our new center and has been from my work for over a decade," said Ranney. "It's one of the reasons that actually a lot of our research looks at how we can use text messaging to improve and change and support healthy behavior because we know that 99 percent of Rhode Islanders that have a phone use text messaging."

"We also know from surveys of our patients that most everyone in Rhode Island has a smartphone, but not everyone is linked up to cell service -- but most of us have a smartphone that we use on wi-fi when we go to McDonald's or to Dunkin' or in normal times to the local library," said Ranney.

"So using that smartphone can be a way to handle that digital divide and make health products available to people who may have other kind of economic challenges," she added. "It's also why it's important for us to work with the community part of our work at the Center for Digital Health is setting up a community advisory board to make sure that health equity is baked into every product that we developed because this is useless if it's only for people on the East Side right or only folks that live in East Greenwich -- we need it to be applicable to all of our citizens whether they live in Pawtucket, in Warren, in Coventry right?

Many of my collaborators actually work across the world so some of our folks at the center for digital health are doing work in Rwanda and Bangladeshand other countries with even lower connectivity than we have here in Rhode Island." The Center has already built partnerships with the New England Medical Innovation Center, Ada Health, and Mosio to name a few.

"So that is a big part of our consideration of how do we make things that are cheap and accessible and that don't ask folks who are already living in a time of economic uncertainty to have to extend themselves further we want to make it easy for people to stay healthy," said Ranney.

Innovation in Rhode Island"I have to say that the mere creation and support of the Center for Digital Health by Brown and Lifespan is in and of itself innovative and nimble right? The organizations have not traditionally worked together and so this shows the path towards a new academic medical center and towards a new way of working," said Ranney.

"The other part is is that because we do sit in between the two organizations, one of the things that we're working on is creating 'shark tank' type seed funding sources, so that we can quickly fund and get off the ground those MVPs, those minimum viable products, that can be proof of concept that can then be launched into either larger grants or into commercial entities in a way that cuts through red tape," said Ranney.

"We can provide the expertise to allow that testing and development to happen and then through working with Brown's technology innovation office, through working with the Nelson Center for Entrepreneurship, and by working with our local community -- Rhode Island Bio, Rhode Island Commerce, that we can use the best and brightest of science and healthcare and launch it quickly out into the world and that's the whole idea of the center."

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Taking Medicine and Tech to the Next Level: Ranney on New Brown-Lifespan Center for Digital Health - GoLocalProv

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