Informatics Research Seminar: Schumpeter’s Gale: How Social Trends, Consumer Electronics, and the Liberation of Data are Forcing Change in Healthcare

 February 6 @ 4:00 – 5:00 pm


Speaker: Robert Furberg, PhD, MBA
Presented from UNC-CH

Broadcast Link: Seminar



The rapid pace of technology innovation and deployment over the past quarter century has had dramatic impact on the dissemination of health information and the practice of health care. While initially slow to embrace, doctors are now increasingly using the web for email conversations with patients, appointment scheduling and delivery of lab results, fostered by patient-centric care models. Using mobile technologies to more rapidly and accurately assess and modify behavior, biological states and contextual variables has great potential to transform medical research. Recent advances in mobile technologies and the ubiquitous nature of these technologies in daily life (e.g., smart phones, sensors) have created opportunities for research applications that were not previously possible (e.g., simultaneously assessing behavioral, physiological, and psychological states in the real world and in real-time). The use of mobile technology affords numerous methodological advantages over traditional methods, including reduced memory bias, the ability to capture time-intensive longitudinal data, date- and time-stamped data, and the potential for personalizing information in real-time. However, challenges in mobile health (or mHealth) research exist. Importantly, much of the work being done in mHealth arises from single disciplines without integration of the behavioral, social sciences, clinical research, and technical fields. Without integration, mobile technologies will not be maximally effective.


Robert Furberg is a senior clinical informaticist in RTI International’s Center for the Advancement of Health Information Technology, where he conducts future-oriented research on technology-enabled health behavior change.

Among patient populations, he focuses on understanding how emerging technologies may enable the motivational, volitional, and actional processes of abandoning health-compromising behaviors in favor of adopting and maintaining health-enhancing behaviors. He has conducted studies on the use of short message service (SMS), or text messaging, to support health promotion, primary and secondary disease prevention, and treatment adherence for smoking cessation, antiretroviral therapy adherence, and management of chronic asthma.

Among providers, he explores how the increased engagement of clinicians online can be used to improve health care delivery, health education, patient and family engagement, patient–clinician communication, and clinical decision support. Dr. Furberg is especially interested in planning, implementation, and evaluation of evidence-based digital health communication strategies that combine current trends in consumer technology adoption with developments in contemporary experimental psychology and social theory that can be integrated into public health practice, driving innovation in theories and models of behavior change.

Much of his current work emphasizes the importance of user experience design to inform the development of native mobile and responsive Web-based applications to facilitate information retrieval, data visualization to accommodate low health literacy, and new engagement mechanisms, including game dynamics, goal setting, tailored feedback, and social incentives.