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Research to Improve Chronic Healthcaret

UTEP PhD student Erika Meraz performs an Impulse Oscillometric Lung Function test on a child.
UTEP PhD student Erika Meraz performs an
Impulse Oscillometric Lung Function test on a child.
A laboratory at The University of Texas at El Paso is leading the nation in improving respiratory healthcare. The Pervasive Health Technology Laboratory in the College of Engineering at UTEP is developing new technologies to provide pervasive healthcare to patients suffering from chronic conditions. The new technology will enable healthcare providers to pervasively monitor, examine, and treat patients suffering from asthma, COPD, congestive heart failure, sleep disorders, and diabetes.

This research is part of a joint effort with researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, University of Michigan, University of Rochester and Technical University of Munich to develop technologies to monitor chronic conditions in patients continuously in a pervasive fashion.

According to Dr. Homer Nazeran, UTEP Electrical Engineering Professor, the goal of the research is to develop new and objective “gold standards” for lung function tests. Current procedures challenge the patient to perform extreme breathing maneuvers. For example, with a spirometric lung function test, patients would be asked to blow into a tube as hard and as fast as they can. Results are subjective and the testing process can be a challenge for patients suffering with chronic conditions.

That’s why researchers in the Pervasive Health Technology Lab are working to develop better testing methods by creating quantitative models for the respiratory system based on more sensitive and specific patient-friendly testing procedures. The new technology, for example, would require patients to breathe normally into a hand-held device for less than 1 minute during a lung function test.

“Many of the people who could be assisted by our research are small children, the elderly, and those who have difficulty performing the challenging breathing maneuvers,” said Nazeran. “With the realization of a hand-held oscillometric device, patients would be able to breathe normally, perform their own lung function test and send this information wirelessly to their healthcare provider for detailed analysis and advice. Patients would save money and time with this technology and would be able to monitor their respiratory health status at anytime from anywhere.”

Patients undergoing a sleep study would also benefit from this technology.

“Patients typically have to spend an entire night in a sleep center, connected to numerous sensors and wires,” said Nazeran. “This technology will allow them to be monitored from the comfort of their own home with a minimal number of sensors in a much more cost-effective way.”