1/2013

Health coaching goes personalized 

Professors Jimison ad Pavel

 

Professors Holly Jimison and Misha Pavel from Oregon, US, are currently
carrying out a research programme called Personalized Health Coaching.

 

Chronic conditions and lifestyle behaviours, such as obesity, are becoming more and more common. Personalized health coaching and health technology will offer an economically feasible solution for tackling the challenges they present to society.

Imagine passing a doughnut shop and being tempted to step in although you know that you need to lose weight. Before you enter, your mobile phone urges you not to do it. A sensor, hidden perhaps in your wrist band or clothes, has reported your intention wirelessly to your health coach who has sent you an automated message.

This is one example of how technology will enable people to take better care of their health in the future.

Holly Jimison and Misha Pavel from Oregon, US, are currently carrying out a research programme called Personalized Health Coaching under the Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro) in collaboration with the Personal Health Informatics research group at the Department of Signal Processing of TUT.

The couple was drawn to Finland mainly because of the excellent reputation of Professor Ilkka Korhonen from TUT and Professor Niilo Saranummi from the VTT Technical Research Centre of Finland.

WHO: Holly Jimison, age 61

  • Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro) 2012-2015, Department of Signal Processing
  • Associate Professor of Medical Informatics and Clinical Epidemiology, Oregon Health & Science University, USA.
  • Education: PhD in Medical Information Sciences, Stanford University, 1990
  • Born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, USA.
  • Family: husband Misha Pavel, a daughter.
  • Hobbies: dancing (African and Latin American dance)
 

Health recommendations just in time

"Just like face-to-face interventions, personalized health coaching means helping people reach their health goals through traditional techniques, such as weight management, non-smoking and physical exercise, but in a tailored way and without a visit to a doctor or a counsellor," Jimison explains.

"Technology facilitates the delivery of these interventions on a just-in-time basis. And the recommendations are not generic, since algorithms are tailored to the individuals."

A health coach receives health sensor data through the Internet and mobile technologies and can quickly and cost-effectively reach a large number of people, for example, through Skype.

Instead of being a doctor or a nurse, a coach is a person trained in motivational interviewing and health behaviour change principles. His or her task is to help people reach the health goals they have set themselves.

Health care must be made more efficient

It has been estimated that 70 per cent of health care costs are caused by chronic conditions.

"We have to find some way to make health care more efficient economically," Pavel points out. "Many health care issues, such as obesity, are related to certain behaviours. By understanding what behaviours are happening and intervening just in time, we can instigate positive changes and make our health care system more efficient and more economically viable."

Providing people with self-monitoring and feedback on their lifestyle choices seems to be one of the most effective ways to help people change their behaviour.

"Traditional face-to face coaching does not take advantage of what new sensor technology can do: provide just-in-time coaching when you are near a particular trigger, like a doughnut shop or whatever, that is going to be a problem in being able to change your health behaviour," adds Jimison.

Already a reality

WHO: Misha Pavel, age 66

  • Finland Distinguished Professor Programme (FiDiPro) 2012-2015, Department of Signal Processing
  • Program Director, Smart Health and Wellbeing, National Science Foundation, and Chair, Department of Biomedical Engineering, Oregon Health & Science University, USA.
  • Education: MS in Electrical Engineering, Stanford University, 1971; PhD in Experimental/Mathematical Psychology, New York University, 1980
  • Born in Czechoslovakia (now the Czech Republic), moved to the US at the age of 18.
  • Family: wife Holly Jimison.
  • Hobbies: cooking
 

Health coaching is already a reality in Oregon where Jimison has been testing home monitoring with older adults for five years. Sensors monitor their activity, memory and socialization, remind them to take their medication, and measure their sleep quality. Based on the data, a coach is able to check how they are doing and provide recommendations. The results have been positive and promising.

"Interventions are cheaper, more efficient and more effective when they are delivered through technology," Jimison concludes.

 

Text: Marjaana Lehtinen
Photo: Petri Laitinen

 

 
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