NEWS BLOG from UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

UPMC and Microsoft Plan to Develop Innovations that Empower Patients, Clinicians

UPMC and Microsoft Plan to Develop Innovations that Empower Patients, CliniciansUPMC and Microsoft announced today that they plan to create a strategic research partnership to develop transformative solutions and technologies that will empower people to live healthier lives.

By combining Microsoft’s expertise in artificial intelligence (AI), the cloud and business optimization tools with the clinical, research and product development expertise of UPMC, the two expect to solve some of the most perplexing challenges facing the health care industry — from disconnected information systems and regulatory uncertainty to physician burnout and poor communication with patients.

“Despite UPMC’s efforts to stay on the leading edge of technology, too often our clinicians and patients feel as though they’re serving the technology rather than the other way around. With Microsoft, we have a shared vision of empowering clinicians by reducing the burden of electronic ‘paperwork’ and allowing the doctor to focus on the sacred doctor-patient relationship,” said Dr. Steven D. Shapiro, chief medical and scientific officer of UPMC and president of UPMC Health Services Division. “Our planned partnership with Microsoft will help us transform the delivery of care and wellness in a way that was never possible before.”

“We are incredibly energized about the opportunities to make a difference in health care with a leading provider and payor like UPMC,” said Peter Lee, corporate vice president of Microsoft Research and leader of Microsoft’s New Experiences and Technologies (NExT) organization. “This will be the first significant partnership in a new initiative that Microsoft is calling Healthcare NExT, which will deeply integrate greenfield research and health technology product development. Through these collaborations between health care partners and Microsoft’s AI and Research organization, our goal is to enable a new wave of innovation and impact.”

The two organizations intend to focus on projects that will empower both physicians and consumers and advance ground-breaking immunology research by using Microsoft’s deep AI expertise and global-scale cloud. These new products are expected to be built with and piloted at UPMC, under the guidance of its innovation and commercialization arm, UPMC Enterprises, which already encompasses a broad portfolio of both homegrown and externally created technology companies.

“UPMC has a long history of applying technology ‘the right way’ and bringing innovations to market,” said Tal Heppenstall, president of UPMC Enterprises. “With Microsoft’s vision and technological ingenuity, our planned, multi-year collaboration has the potential to help us deliver vastly better care and a better patient experience at a lower cost—the ‘Triple Aim’ of health care.”

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Wheelchair Technology Gains National Recognition

Wheelchair Technology Gains National RecognitionA life-changing wheelchair technology created by Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently gained national recognition at the Blackwood Design Awards in Dundee, Scotland.

HERL director Dr. Rory Cooper won the “Best New Concept” award for the Mobility Enhancement Robotic Wheelchair (MEBot), a device that allows navigation over curbs and challenging terrain. The MEBot impacts independent living for disabled individuals by assisting in real life situations; redistributing chair’s weight to help keep it balanced when going up or down hills.

The Blackwood Design Awards recognize brilliant, life-changing designs from all over the world. Judges were extremely impressed with the level of research involved and the functionality of the MEBot’s design. The MEBot was designed by wheelchair users, for wheelchair users. Blackwood Design judges valued the role of personal experience in the design process, as many HERL designers and engineers use power chairs.

“It is extremely gratifying to have the very innovative work of our team members recognized with this award,” Cooper said. “The MEBot sets a new standard for powered wheelchair mobility, and demonstrates what can be achieved when persons with disabilities, engineers and clinicians work together in concert.”

The prestigious award comes just two months after the MEBot competed in Cybathlon, a competition for assistive technology in Geneva, Switzerland. The award is bringing national recognition to the MEBot and HERL’s engineers and designers. Researchers are exploring commercial partnerships, and new manufacturers have expressed interest in the design.

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Pitt Professor Recognized for Clinical Excellence in Audiology and Speech Language Therapy

Pitt Professor Nationally Recognized for Clinical Excellence in Audiology and Speech Language Therapy Dr. Paula Leslie, program director and professor in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders at the University of Pittsburgh School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been awarded the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation (ASHFoundation) Louis M. DiCarlo Award for Recent Clinical Achievement. The award was recently presented at the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association’s annual convention in Philadelphia.

“It is an honor to be recognized by the American Speech-Language-Hearing Foundation, as well as my colleagues for my contributions to advance the field of speech-language pathology” Dr. Leslie said. “I’m grateful to be able to support outstanding clinical staff and to have been nominated for such a prestigious award.”

The award recognizes significant accomplishments in the advancement of clinical service in audiology and/or speech-language pathology. The ASHFoundation is a charitable organization that promotes a better quality of life for children and adults with communication and swallowing disorders.

Dr. Leslie has applied her expertise in speech-language pathology and dysphagia to develop interprofessional protocols with both speech-language pathology clinical staff and palliative care providers, resulting in enhanced communication and care for patients throughout the UPMC system.


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UPMC Study Finds Cross-Training Benefits Runners’ BMI and Movement Control

UPMC Study Finds Cross-Training Benefits Runners’ BMI and Movement ControlUPMC researchers found runners who cross-train demonstrate fewer abnormal movements during common tasks and have a lesser body mass index (BMI).

The results of the study, led by UPMC physical therapist Brittany Lynch, determined the correlation by testing the effect of cross-training on musculoskeletal profiles of runners training for a running event. They will be presented at the American Physical Therapy Association Combined Sections Meeting in February.

Participants included 81 runners from a local running club who were training for various running events, including a 5K, four-person marathon relay, half-marathon and full-marathon. All participants completed a musculoskeletal screen assessing upper and lower abdominal strength, lower extremity strength and flexibility.

The research team compared BMI, number of runs per week, running mileage, and frequency of musculoskeletal impairments between cross-trainers and non-cross-trainers.

Cross-trainers, or individuals who self-reported cross-training with aerobic, resistance and flexibility training, didn’t run more frequently or more miles per week than non-cross-trainers, but did have a lesser BMI. Additionally, cross-training was strongly associated with fewer musculoskeletal impairments.  Runners who cross-trained also had much better control of their trunk during single-leg tasks, which can reduce injury risk overall.

Runners can improve their movement patterns and reduce their musculoskeletal impairments by devoting time to resistance, flexibility or other forms of aerobic training, thus reducing their risk for injury, Lynch said. This is possible without compromising running mileage or overall training volume.

Athletes interested in a cross-training program are encouraged to consult with one of the professionals at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex or UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex.

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Preventing Hearing Loss is Relatively Easy: ‘Turn it Down, Keep it Down, Move Away From Source’

Preventing Hearing Loss is Relatively EasyNew research from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) shows that hearing loss is an important health issue that can lead to anxiety and depression – it’s also a bigger problem than we realized, and many people are unaware they have it.

Using information from the National Health and Nutrition Examination survey, investigators found that a surprising amount of hearing damage comes from within our homes and surrounding community. Noise exposure is the second most common cause of hearing loss after aging, and the cost to care for patients is rising — expected to reach $51 billion by 2030.

Here are some steps to take to protect your hearing:

  • Avoid noisy places whenever you can — step away from sound sources and minimize time spent near them.
  • Carry ear plugs with you and use them when necessary.
  • At home and in the in car — keep volume down, take breaks from listening.
  • Talk to your doctor about getting a hearing exam.

One of the most important messages from the CDC study is that people don’t realize they have hearing loss. This is consistent with data just collected at UPMC indicating the majority of older adults tested who did have impactful or significant hearing loss reported that they did not believe they had hearing loss.

The only reliable way to find out if there is hearing loss is to test the hearing with tones. Medicare began covering hearing screening 10 years ago, yet a 2015 study reported that only 23 percent of all adults had their hearing screened during their past physical. In contrast, 74 percent of adults reported that they had their eyes screened at least once every two years, and 63 percent reported that they have their teeth checked annually, which implies an urgency to action that is not found related to the identification of permanent hearing loss. Primary care physicians can have an impact on this by recommending hearing testing for all patients, not just older adults. (more…)

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