New Thunder Bay researcher to focus on improving health care with technology

Zubair Fadlullah has been appointed the Lakehead University-Health Research Institute Research Chair in Smart Health Technology; he will be affiliated with Lakehead University’s Department of Computer Science.

Zubair Fadlullah has been appointed as a research chair in smart health technology

Zubair Fadlullah was previously an associate professor at the Graduate School of Information Sciences at Tohoku University in Japan. (Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre)

A new scientist is joining the Thunder Bay Regional Health Research Institute to look at how so-called smart health technologies can help increase access to healthcare for patients in remote northern Ontario communities.

Zubair Fadlullah has been appointed the Lakehead University-Health Research Institute Research Chair in Smart Health Technology; he will be affiliated with Lakehead University's department of computer science.

Smart health technologies are defined as "software and mobile technology, as well as integrated hardware such as smart phones and sensors, that advance health," according to an article published by the Thunder Bay Regional Health Sciences Centre. 

"The number one goal is to find ways to improve the health of individuals," said Lakehead University's vice president of research and innovation, Andrew Dean, "and also I think to improve health equity." 

Research into smart health technology has been going on for two or three years at Lakehead, Dean told CBC. 

In September, the institute held a research day focused on the topic featuring a keynote presentation from Dr. Dror Ben-Zeev, the co-director of the BRiTE Centre, which stands for Behavioral Research in Technology and Engineering. Ben-Zeev showcased a smart phone app used for supporting people with mental health issues.  

"There are a lot of things that can be done just with technology to allow people to get better health access, help doctors in the region, help nurses in the region to quickly access health information and solutions," Dean said.

From apps that ask patients how they are feeling to ones that help keep in touch with physicians and health care professionals, Dean said there are already a lot of apps for patients living with diabetes, addictions and mental health issues.

"It does sound like these are the kind of things which need to always have people interacting right away, " he added, "but there are actually some very good and new technologies that are out there that allow people to use technologies to help with intervention and also even promote better health." 

New technologies can allow people to communicate long-distance more easily with health professionals and monitor health conditions and medications more thoroughly, Dean said. 

The appointment of Fadlullah reflects an effort to expand the joint research efforts of the university and the research institute beyond medical imaging to focus more on Indigenous health and  possibly the development of technology, he added.