UCLA's Arash Naeim: Center for SMART Health aims to spur tech development, foster home-based healing

The recently formed UCLA Center for Systematic, Measurable, Actionable, Resilient and Technology-driven (SMART) Health--a collaborative effort from the David Geffen School of Medicine and UCLA's Henry Samueli School of Engineering and Applied Science--has a multi-prong mission. It hopes to drive research collaboration, develop and test new mHealth devices and systems, and improve reliability of home health sensor tools to support home-based healing.

Its first project, SMART Home Lab, announced this month, is a simulated residence where researchers can test patient responses to treatment as well as new devices. 

FierceMobileHealthcare reached out to Arash Naeim, the center's co-director who also serves as chief medical officer for clinical research at the David Geffen School of Medicine, to gain insight on the initiative, as well as his perspective on the state of mHealth innovation.

FierceMobileHealthcare: This is a truly innovative approach that could be applied to a wide range of research, so why tackle mobile healthcare?

Arash Naeim: The center is dedicated to research, development and application of technology and methods for predicting and reducing risk, improving precision, enhancing resilience, and improving quality in healthcare. The goal is to address high-impact and value projects in the health sciences using novel approaches and methods across multiple disciplines including engineering, computer science, biomedical informatics, decision theory, sociology, psychology, and business.

Mobile healthcare happens to be a great use case for the center, with two high-priority projects that are ongoing. It is also a growth area and a focus area for precision medicine and our big data initiatives.

FMH: Will the center work with non-university entities?

Naeim: It is the intent to work with both for-profit and non-profit, non-university entities. The center is closely aligned with campus accelerator and incubator activities aimed at commercialization of ideas created on-campus, but also to serve as a testing ground in mutually beneficial relationships with industry.

FMH: What is the next research development focus following the home lab?

Naeim: The center focus is broad. Current focus areas extend beyond sensing and mobile health to other technology-based approaches, such as robotics. Analytically, there is activity in risk modeling and stratification of complex patient populations (cancer, cardiac, or patients with multiple illnesses), imaging analytics, and working with the campus and health system on big data and precision medicine.

FMH: What is your view of where mHealth is today? Where do you expect it to be in 10 years?

Naeim: Mobile health is probably beyond infancy but still rather immature at this time. There needs to be a lot more work clinically validating the data derived from mobile health and integration in the clinical care and decision-making process.

In 10 to 20 years, it is likely the infrastructure of our homes will lend itself more toward mobile health as smart home design becomes more prevalent. In addition, the population will be more willing to have their data available and shared with better privacy and security safeguards in place. Technology and innovation will help redesign care in a way to provide more efficient and high quality health care that is personalized in the future.

Editor's Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.