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Jessica Kent

Howard University College of Medicine is partnering with AARP to improve chronic disease management using artificial intelligence and data analytics.

Howard University College of Medicine’s 1867 Health Innovations Project and AARP Innovation Labs will leverage artificial intelligence and data analytics to boost chronic disease management in medically underserved communities.

The partnership will examine age-tech solutions to expand healthcare access for people with chronic conditions, and will focus on developing new models of care.

AARP and Howard University will conduct two clinical pilot projects to improve diabetes management and medication adherence. The first is a proactive voice-technology that uses facial recognition to remind individuals to take their medication.

The second project will launch a digital online health community that connects individuals to others with similar health challenges. The collaboration will aim to develop additional pilot projects to address health conditions such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, genetic disorders, cancer, and neurodegenerative diseases.

AARP Innovation Labs will provide Howard University researchers with cutting-edge technologies and resources like design thinking training to improve the health of adults 50 and older.

The technology solutions will include mobile apps, sensors, virtual and augmented reality, artificial intelligence, wearables, facial and voice recognition, and data analytics. The team at Howard University will combine the technology with research and care models to assess short- and long-term effectiveness, while facilitating the adoption of disruptive technologies in chronic disease management and underserved communities.

“The partnership combines the strengths of two great organizations, while enhancing tech and innovation initiatives for the most vulnerable,” said Dr. Hugh Mighty, dean of Howard University’s College of Medicine and vice president of clinical affairs.

Researchers noted that in the current pandemic, partnerships and projects like these are especially critical. COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted older adults and underserved populations: A recent analysis from Avalere revealed that in the top 25 US counties with the highest prevalence of COVID-19, the majority of adults aged 65 and older are at high risk for severe illness if they contract the virus.

“The CDC has identified specific populations of individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including adults aged 65 and older and people of all ages with certain underlying health conditions,” Avalere researchers stated.

Additionally, a study conducted by researchers at the MIT Sloan School of Management found that COVID-19 death rates in the US are correlated with patients’ age, race, gender, and other social determinants of health data.

The results showed that African Americans and older people are more likely to die from the virus than Caucasians and people under the age of 65.

“Identifying these relationships is key to helping leaders understand both what’s causing the correlation and also how to formulate policies that address it,” said Christopher R. Knittel, the George P. Shultz Professor of Applied Economics at MIT Sloan.

“Why, for instance, are African Americans more likely to die from the virus than other races? Our study controls for patients’ income, weight, diabetic status, and whether or not they’re smokers. So, whatever is causing this correlation, it’s none of those things. We must examine other possibilities, such as systemic racism that impacts African Americans’ quality of insurance, hospitals, and healthcare, or other underlying health conditions that are not in the model.”

With the projects jointly launched by Howard University and AARP, researchers expect to help protect underserved and older populations from severe illness caused by COVID-19.

“Now more than ever, our most vulnerable communities need critical support to stay connected and educated through innovative measures,” said Nigel Smith, Director, AARP Innovation Labs.

“We’re proud to collaborate with Howard University and focus on solutions to help underserved populations better manage their chronic conditions and live healthier lives, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond.”

The partnering organizations will conduct the pilot projects through Howard University’s 1867 Health Innovations Project, which launched this past April. The project seeks to collaborate with innovators, entrepreneurs, researchers, and corporate partners to address complex health problems facing underserved communities in Washington, DC and beyond.

Through the development and use of digital health solutions, the 1867 will initially focus on virtual healthcare innovations that allow for greater medical care access and health outcomes, specifically in the areas of artificial intelligence, data analytics, voice recognition, and others.

With this new partnership, Howard University and AARP will work to expand and build healthcare solutions for vulnerable patient populations.

“It is important that all communities have access to innovative digital solutions,” said Michael Crawford, Howard University’s associate dean for strategy, outreach, and innovation. “The AARP partnership allows us to test, scale, and accelerate the use of tech solutions for 50+ medically underserved.”