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International IEEE Healthcom Conference held at MU

MU computer science Professor Chi-Ren Shyu, at right, shares the podium with Tsong-Ho Wu, an IEEE Fellow. Wu Chaired the e-Health Technical Committee of the IEEE Communications Society at the IEEE Healthcom conference held at MU. Shyu served as general conference chair.

Serving as general conference chair, Chi-Ren Shyu, director of the University of Missouri’s Informatics Institute and Shumaker Professor in the Computer Science Department, hosted the Healthcom 2011 Conference on the MU campus in mid-June.

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineer’s (IEEE) 13th International Conference on e-Health, Networking, Application and Services provided opportunities for participants from 23 countries to share ideas and innovations on topics of “technology-enabled personalized medicine.”

Shyu said the first Healthcom Conference was held in Australia with a focus on using mobile phones in Third World countries. Applications of Telehealth were seen as a way to help people in rural areas where doctors are scarce, he said, marveling at how far technology has come in such a short time.

“Now, affordable smartphones are in use by almost everyone” Shyu said. “There have also been advancements in things like sensor-embedded phones and in open-source electronic health record software. Marriage of these technologies can greatly improve healthcare quality. It’s exciting research that is the future of healthcare.”

Conference attendees had the opportunity to tour MU’s Eldertech Aging in Place (AIP) facility, TigerPlace. An independent living facility, TigerPlace also is a collaborative research facility that utilizes sensing and pattern recognition technologies to explore early illness and fall detection, fall risk management and exercise safety. Marilyn Rantz, professor with MU’s Sinclair School of Nursing, serves as the AIP executive director, and Marjorie Skubic, professor of electrical and computer engineering at MU, serves as director of the Center for Eldercare and Rehabilitation Technology that is developing sensor systems.

Shyu said that home care sensors could potentially become even more advanced to alert health care providers to patient difficulties.

“We will eventually be able to send biosignals — heart beat, glucose, perspiration, blood pressure — to a “cloud” that can smartly detect abnormalities and alert care providers of any changes,” Shyu said.

“We’re looking at wireless networks, databases, data mining, decision support and algorithms. Mobile devices will play an important role,” he added.

The conference featured six keynote plenary talks and 75 oral and poster presentations. Several MU engineering faculty and staff members were involved in the conference, including Linsey Barker Steege, assistant professor of industrial and manufacturing engineering, who served on the organizing committee, and Harry Tyrer, professor of electrical and computer engineering, who was a member of the program committee.

“Guilherme DeSouza [MU associate professor of electrical and computer engineering] was one of the finalists for the best paper awards,” Shyu said. DeSouza’s paper was titled “Virtual Dermatologist: An Application of 3D Modeling to Tele-Healthcare.”

“Gui’s work is another example of integrating engineering innovations with medical applications to assist diagnosis,” Shyu said.

In addition, Jill McIntosh, engineering events manager, coordinated the events with Nicole Theberge.

Representatives from National Institutes of Health, National Science Foundation, World Bank, Intel, Qualcomm, the Industrial Technology Research Institute in Taiwan and other major organizations were on hand.

Shyu said  previous conferences were held in much larger metropolitan areas in various parts of the world, and it was challenging to attract people to Columbia.

“Once they were here,” he said, “they were very impressed with the research environment that is taking place at MU and with the research support within the College of Engineering and on the MU campus.”

Conference attendees enjoyed a dinner event at Lake of the Ozark’s Lodge of the Four Seasons where MU Engineering Dean Jim Thompson welcomed them, and best paper awards were announced.

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