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Wearable technology for physician trainees

Wearable tech being used to assess healthcare worker stress

Kinesiology and Community Health Professor Manuel Hernandez is among the researchers across campus who recently received funding through the Jump ARCHES (Applied Research for Community Health through Engineering and Simulation) research and development program. The Jump ARCHES program is a partnership between the University of Illinois and its College of Medicine in Peoria and OSF HealthCare.

Hernandez’s project involves monitoring the stress of healthcare workers, specifically physician trainees, through wearable technology.

The pilot grant of $75,000 for one year, Hernandez said, allows for his team to gather remotely collected multimodal wearable data, and to develop software aimed at integrating sensor data and creating a novel framework for detecting state anxiety.

The study subjects will wear Hexoskin smart shirts, wristbands (Embrace 2 sensors), and use a smartphone app (EARS) that will allow for physiological recordings and passive mobile sensing. The physician trainees will wear sensors for 8-12 hours a day for two weeks at a time, Hernandez said, in two separate, two-week sessions.

Hernandez said he hopes the study will provide a foundation for the development of a novel machine learning/artificial intelligence framework for detecting anxiety in adults.

It could, he added, “Allow us to quantify changes in mental health and wellness in physician trainees due to the ongoing pandemic.”

Third-year physician trainees were specifically targeted as subjects, Hernandez said, because of their exposure to clinical rotations, which is particularly timely because of potential COVID-19 exposure.

Hernandez said he and his colleagues chose trainees, rather than older, established physicians, because of the “long-term implications of mental wellness and health in young adults.” The project serves “as a starting point for future examination of mental health and wellness in adults in stressful environments. For physician trainees, even during normal times, the need to both provide care and learn clinical best practices already presents significant challenges for emotional well-being, let alone when faced with a pandemic.”

The study is vital now, Hernandez said, particularly because of the ongoing pandemic. Healthcare professionals often lack the time for traditional services to assessing their mental health, such as therapy.

“Given the potential long-term ramifications on mental health, such as anxiety, depression, or burnout, and well-being of our frontline healthcare providers, particularly trainees, there is an urgent need for objective measures and monitoring of mental health and well-being.”

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