UArizona Nursing Researcher Joins UArizona College of Engineering to Explore Israel’s World-Class Health Care Innovations

Dec. 6, 2022

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Shu-Fen Wung (4th from L.) during the UArizona Israel trip

As part of a multidisciplinary project between the University of Arizona College of Engineering’s Center to Stream Health in Place (C2SHIP)  and the UArizona College of Nursing, Associate Nursing Professor Shu Fen Wung , PhD, MS, RN, ACNP-BC, FAAN recently traveled to Israel to work with Israeli health care innovators in digital health.

The trip to Israel came about because the Center was seeking to learn more about countries with the most advanced healthcare technology. “Israel stands out because it’s an innovation hub,” Dr. Wung says. “Also, they have an integrated health care system that capture the data at the ecosystem level. We considered other countries as well but after we evaluated, we concluded that Israel was the best place to visit.”

Dr. Wung has been partnering with the College of Engineering since 2019, when she reached out to engineering faculty for assistance with designing and analyzing false alarm research data she was gathering using advanced Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology. When Janet Roveda, PhD at the College of Engineering launched its Center to Stream Health in Place (C2SHIP) in 2021 – the only National Science Foundation-funded Industry/University Collaborative Research Center focused digital health center in the US. -- Dr. Wung was appointed as Director of Translational Health Sciences . Her presence also provided the College of Nursing a seat at the table for these discussions. “Because of my extensive research and clinical background, I can provide hands-on practical insights on what makes sense for an industry to promote regarding aging in place,” Dr. Wung says, citing her longstanding success in funded research to guide other clinicians and caregivers to effectively and safely use health technologies when caring for people with acute or  multiple chronic illnesses.

Israel stands out because it’s an innovation hub. Also, they have an integrated health care system that capture the data at the ecosystem level. We considered other countries as well but after we evaluated, we concluded that Israel was the best place to visit," ~ Shu-Fen Wung, PhD, MS, RN, ACNP-BC, FAAN

Drs. Wung, Roveda, and John Paul SanGiovanni from UArizona and Dr. Tavakolian from the University of North Dakota served on the C2SHIP-Israel delegation to learn more about the country’s healthcare innovations in care delivery and healthtech to help evaluate their suitability for introduction into United States markets. “We wanted to help their industry, but on the academic level we were establishing a strong collaboration between our universities and the top universities and institutes in Israel,” Dr. Wung says, noting that the bond could allow the collaborators to apply for funding together from the National Science Foundation (NSF), private foundations and individual donors interested in promoting in-home health care delivery.

The trip, which took place between September 8-18, brought the UArizona representatives to several innovation hubs, including Ichilov Medical Center. “The IMed works closely with healthcare professionals to develop technology that turns unmet needs into solutions,” Dr. Wung says. In addition to the advanced seamless hospital admissions technologies, one innovation that particularly impressed her was the 3-D printing technology to precicisely develop patient-specific custom medical implants for surgeries. “They’re able to anatomically map out one’s body parts, taking into consideration things like tumor mass and topology  to cause minimal destruction, in creating individualized orthopedic structures,” she says. “It was quite eye-opening how strong they were in innovation.”

Shu-Fen Wung , PhD, MS, RN, ACNP-BC, FAAN

Additionally, Dr. Wung and her colleagues toured Israel’s biggest insurance company, MaccabiHealthcare Systems, which has a strong clinical research division with connected health data and capacity for large-scale prospective data archiving and access for efficient analysis. They also visited the Holon Institute of Technology, which, she says, is the most relevant to nursing education and her research. “They’re also working on innovative teaching curriculum,” she says. “Not only are they training engineers but they’re immersing medical education into their training, with a goal of developing engineers who are well-versed in health technology.” The institute is slanted toward medicine, Dr. Wung says, but she sees it as an opportunity to bring a nursing voice to the discussion  if the University of Arizona and the Institute partner in submission of education grants.

Dr. Wung was particularly impressed with the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, which, unlike traditional art schools, has a focus on art and design that can impact healthcare settings, including music created to decrease stress and evaluating technology for better user experiences. “I’m familiar with using cognitive psychology to evaluate usability,” Dr. Wung says, “but using art and design is a promising future direction.  It was quite fun to see the artful projects they were working on that also incorporate AI in the design of healthcare technologies.”

During her time in Israel, Dr. Wung was impressed with how front and center technology was to the different companies and institutions she toured. She returned to Arizona excited about the new partnerships and eager to see how the nursing field could contribute to future innovations.

Currently, Dr. Wung and her colleagues in the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture & Life Sciences are meeting frequently with their Israeli partners. Drs. Wung and Roveda have also submitted a training grant that will be used to train students in new health technologies. “My goal is to make sure that any technology that’s developed has clinical relevance. And that it's user-centered, meaning they can’t just develop anything without considering who is using it, whether it’s a clinician, a patient, the family, or the caregiver. The goal is to make sure that the technology used will improve the quality and safety of their care.”

Dr. Wung is excited about how open and innovative the Israeli companies are, and how energetic they are about pushing care technology to the next level. “They do a good job of infusing disciplined knowledge into their design and viewing the technology as part of the daily environment. That’s really important because the U.S. is moving toward a holistic health concept of how your body and the environment are interconnected.”