International team of researchers exploring future health technology today
Technology’s impact on health care grows exponentially every year. Across the globe, researchers explore digital health technologies such as telehealth, electronic health records and home monitoring systems, to help people live healthier lives. A unique fellowship program that brings together UC Davis and Danish researchers allows students to take part in the cutting-edge research.
For the past three summers, UC Davis Health and Aalborg University in Denmark partnered to offer the Transatlantic Telehealth Research Network (TTRN) Graduate Fellowship and International Exchange Program, where faculty and students from both universities spend a week immersed in digital health technologies research and development.
“This program connects students with the faculty who are actually doing this ground-breaking research,” said Katherine Kim, an assistant professor at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing who has participated since the first exchange in 2016.
The exchange program was born out of the Transatlantic Telehealth Research Network. UC Davis Health, Aalborg University in Denmark and Center for Information Technology Research in the Interest of Society (CITRIS) leaders founded the network in 2012 to develop innovations within telehealth.
School of Nursing doctoral students Cindi Matsumoto, Anne Mbe and Sayantani Sarkar, as well as Kim, traveled to Odense University Hospital in Southern Denmark in August to take part in the 2019 exchange. UC Davis School of Medicine Health Informatics Associate Professor Nick Anderson and medical student Jin Sol Lee also participated.
The intensive fellowship program focuses on current and next-generation digital health technologies, research methodologies, health communities and models of digital health care, and includes faculty and students from nursing, medicine and engineering. The goal, Kim said, is to engage the students in the research early in their careers to speed up the process that moves new health technologies into practice at a large scale. Each university, Kim said, brings unique expertise to the collaboration.
“The Danish researchers are experts in telehealth implementation,” Kim said. “But we are experts in research methods, and data analytics. We bring all of this together as we conduct the research.”
Throughout the week, the group explores research methods to assess the outcomes and values of digital health technologies as well as implementation in practice. For the students involved, the fellowship provides an opportunity to get involved at the ground level.
“Technology is ubiquitous. To improve health care, we should use the tools that people have and meet them where they are,” Matsumoto said. “In the TTRN, there is a focus on patient-centered care and technology design that includes the patient at every step along the way. The patient and care-team work together to design and build a solution that is collaborative and not just prescriptive.”
Sarkar agreed. She said the experience provided her additional opportunities to explore where she hopes to focus her doctoral research.
“This is unlike other symposiums where you go from presentation to presentation,” she explained. “With this fellowship you have a chance to explore new technologies and new research. The scope is much greater.”
For the first three years, the fellowship location rotated from Sacramento to Denmark. However, in 2020, the fellowship site is set for Partners HealthCare and Harvard University in Boston.
“This network is growing and students have an opportunity to be part very early in their careers,” Kim said.