HUB for Excellence in eHealth Research

Emerging information and communication technologies are revolutionizing the methods used by scientists and clinicians to understand and influence everyday health. Novel sensor systems, sophisticated Internet functionalities, and wireless data transmission are enabling increasingly nuanced assessment of health behaviors and symptoms as well as more targeted biobehavioral intervention.

This burgeoning field of eHealth, which includes mHealth, or the use of mobile communication for health services and information, is making assessment and intervention possible in real time, often informed by an individual’s location, social context, and health behavior patterns.

The HUB for Excellence in eHealth Research (or “eHealth HUB”) involves School of Nursing researchers who are harnessing novel technologies to improve health care and health outcomes. To foster transdisciplinary collaboration, methodological innovation, and development of new investigators, the eHealth Hub offers important infrastructure support for technology-enabled research that is grounded in behavioral theory and guided by principles of team science and user-centered design.

Cores

Administrative

Lora E. Burke, PhD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN, Director

The Administrative Core oversees all eHealth HUB activities to ensure progress toward its ultimate goal of becoming a resource for the greater research community. Activities to share methods, technologies, and expertise among investigators and across programs of research include monthly eHealth Seminar Series, the biweekly Technology T32 Seminar and Speakers Series, and the monthly Center for Research and Evaluation Research Methodology Series.

The Administrative Core maintains an Expert Registry of behavioral scientists, clinicians, and technologists within and external to the School of Nursing who are active in the eHealth field and willing to consult with HUB members. In addition to providing support for pilot studies and infrastructure enhancement projects, the Administrative Core coordinates the work of three Hub Cores, encourages scholarly productivity among HUB investigators, and spearheads efforts to ensure the HUB’s sustainability.

Design to Dissemination

Susan M. Sereika, PhD, Leader

This HUB Core provides consultation for eHealth investigations, which often require specialized statistical and methodological expertise to ensure valid analysis and data interpretation. Examples include application of data reduction strategies to complex, serially collected data from sensors or devices; assessment and estimation of missing data; mediation and moderation analyses; and longitudinal analytic approaches.

As a centralized HUB resource, the Design to Dissemination Core stimulates synergies among Hub investigators faced with similar statistical and methodological challenges, which often involve common constructs and measures. In addition to conducting statistical analyses for individual studies, this Core coordinates pooled analyses of data across studies and facilitates dissemination of these research findings.

Biobehavioral Resources

Lora E. Burke, PhD, MPH, FAHA, FAAN, Interim Leader

Launching a program of research in eHealth is costly, and pilot monies are often insufficient to cover both acquisition of devices and programming. To help investigators new to eHealth obtain feasibility or pilot data for grant proposals, the Biobehavioral Resources Core maintains a repository of devices for loan on a time-limited basis.

This Core also provides consultation regarding technology needs for grant proposals and assists investigators with identifying needed peripherals or software, acquiring devices from appropriate sources (including obtaining bids when necessary), and following required purchasing procedures.

Technology Infrastructure and Data Management

Judith T. Matthews, PhD, MPH

Investigators are often unfamiliar with the array of technological tools at their disposal for measurement and intervention. Likewise, they may be unaware of technologists at the University of Pittsburgh and elsewhere who are willing to collaborate on novel solutions or modification of existing technologies.

The Technology Infrastructure and Data Management Core provides consultation regarding interface design and modification of eHealth technologies, and it refers investigators to individuals with the pertinent technical expertise to advance their aims.

This Core is developing a toolkit aimed at streamlining processes to 1)help investigators manage data from study startup through the archival process for storing data upon study completion, and 2) track their progress and related productivity. The Core is also exploring establishment of a permanent web and database server infrastructure that would enable investigators to execute their eHealth research ideas relatively quickly and inexpensively.