Electronic Health Records

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NYU WIRELESS to boost mHealth and mobile EHR

By Kyle Murphy, PhD

“Doctors face this difficulty of getting real-time information,” explains Professor Theodore Rappaport, “Information doesn’t move as fast as they would like.” Rappaport is the David/Ernst Weber Professor of Electrical Engineering and Director of the newly-created NYU WIRELESS, the first academic research center in the world to combine medicine with wireless communications and computing. “Take MRI and intensive images: Being able to process those and see them quickly is important to diagnoses and other treatments,” adds Rappaport.

Yesterday was a landmark day for the NYU WIRELESS. The partnership between New York University and Polytechnic of NYU (NYU-Poly) announced National Instruments (NI) as its founding industrial partner in launching the center. With experts from NI and funding from the likes of the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), researchers at NYU WIRELESS will address a fundamental obstacle in the way of wireless technology enabling future innovation in American medicine and healthcare, its infrastructure. Current research projects already total $10 million each year.

Doctors can’t be expected to keep pace with the growing demands on their time without information capable of flowing quickly and securely through the air. “Early observation is that the communications capabilities move pretty slow — doctors have many cords and many wires in their practices,” argues Rappaport, who has worked for more than three decades trying to improve the fidelity and reach of wireless signals (e.g., wireless pacemakers) which have lagged behind advancements in other related technologies. “Over the last three decades, computer clock speeds have increased by three orders of magnitude. Memory speeds have increased by the same degree. But radio carrier frequencies have only increased by one decade.”

Set in Brooklyn, New York, NYU WIRELESS will serve as challenging testing ground for researchers developing solutions to increase the performance of wireless communications. NYC is a notorious enemy of wireless and cellular signals, the size and makeup of its buildings coupled with its large body of connected users and devices placing a chokehold on data flowing through the ether. The eclectic mix of faculty from backgrounds in electrical engineering, computer science, and medicine, are ready to engage these challenges head on. “When you bring people together from a wide range of areas and viewpoints with problems to be solved, this is where engineering thrives.”

Ubiquitous computing, tablets at the point of care, mobile health (mHealth): CIOs and health IT specialists are searching for ways to enhance and extend the level of connection between providers and patients and among providers themselves. However, none of these is possible without an infrastructure capable of supporting them. With many hospitals wired for direct connections, made up of not-so-wireless-friendly building materials (e.g., concrete masonry units) and physically congested areas, getting a trustworthy wireless signal isn’t as simple as adding another router or Wi-Fi repeater.

The solution is harnessing a level of radio spectrum that is open to innovation. And it would seem the new hub for wireless communications is only a proverbial stone’s throw from innovators in health IT through the New York Digital Health Accelerator (NYDHA):

And by moving up the spectrum, a new frontier opens to wireless innovation. The millimeter-wave spectrum is uncrowded — with enough capacity to accommodate breakthroughs in cellular and personal wireless communication networks.  All our researchers eagerly embrace this unprecedented interdisciplinary collaboration as an opportunity to shape the future of wireless communications and make meaningful contributions to lives and health in our world.

Through its strategic partnership with NYU School of Medicine, the real benefits of NYU WIRELESS research are not far away from making a tangible difference in how wireless technologies impact American healthcare and untethered innovation.

It looks like mobile health and New York-based health IT innovators will be getting a true boost.

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