Our work to realize connected healthcare solutions for Europe and China

Our work to realize connected healthcare solutions for Europe and China

Yuan Li and Nuoya Chen are two of the six excellent young researchers enrolled in the industrial PhD program HEART
2020/06/23 13:36:00 GMT+2

HEART is an industrial PhD program: HEalth related Activity Recognition system based on IoT An interdisciplinary training program for young researchers. It is structured in six individual research projects, closely interrelated, conducted by six excellent young researchers at prestigious European universities, such as the University of Macerata and KU Leuven, and at Philips, the leading multinational in the healthcare sector, with the support of a network of European and Chinese institutions. The final result of HEART will be the development of an integrated activity recognition platform for (personal) health services. 

Yuan Li and Nuoya Chen are involved in this project via the University of Macerata. Their background is in Intellectual Property Management and Competition Law, and Business respectively

June 2020
We are now at a rather advanced phase in the HEART project. Less than a year remains to the end of your research contract (foreseen in Feb. 2021) and your personal research idea has now mostly taken shape into a real research project. So you can now outline how your research project has materialised by now.

What are the main and most important findings you can glimpse in the horizon of your research at 2/3 of the HEART path?

Yuan-Li.pngMy research purpose is to study a transparent and cooperative framework that can ensure free flow of data being transferred across the borders between the European Union and China that is compliant with laws and safeguards the interests of data subjects. Data protection rules apply on all kinds of aspects, including protection of privacy and personal information, cybersecurity, export control and health-related medical device market approval. Against this complex background, each country has its own approach towards protecting the citizen’s personal information while promoting data-driven innovation. Both China and the EU have adopted authoritarian measures that uphold a harsh restriction to free flow of data cross-border transfer.
Sino-EU transfer of personal information is an example of how complex the legal problems of cross-border data transfer could be when political control over multinational digital trade is in place. My research tackles the critical issues of transborder data flow such as lack of harmonization, conflict of laws, unawareness of historical and legal context and imbalance of the interests involved.


Nuoya-Chen.pngI think Europe and China have common challenges facing the implementation of smart health solutions such as interoperability, privacy, empowering citizens, harmonizing healthcare systems etc. Given the contrast between the reality in two healthcare systems, the similarity in challenges for realizing connected healthcare solutions is interesting.

The HEART team of researchers is very heterogeneous, you are a Social Sciences early stage researcher, and you are working with ICT early stage researchers. What are your impressions on working with colleagues from such a distant background from SSH?

First of all, the HEART project provides us all kinds of means to understand each other’s research fields. Being a law school student, I have taken courses in machine learning, cybersecurity, edge computing, international business and so on. This training provided me with basic knowledge on how the HEART architecture is built and what concerns need to be taken into consideration when embedding my research into the HEART project.
Additionally, I and my fellow early stage researchers maintain a close relationship both in and out of the working time. We have a scheduled weekly meeting to share the state of the art in the different domains and to propose new ideas arising from active discussions. We often exchanged our opinions regarding a new topic till late night. I really enjoyed the delightful working atmosphere, and for sure was benefited a lot from it.
An example: when my colleague Koustabh (one of the IT early stage researchers enrolled in the HEART project) introduced his research topic of Federated Machine Learning in early 2019, I noticed that this privacy-preserving machine learning technique could be a good topic when combining with the GDPR principles. We quickly made a draft comprised of research question, methodology and a case study, and with the valuable feedbacks of the supervisors in UNIMC and KU Leuven, we wrote a paper focusing on how the GDPR will apply on Federated Machine Learning and what are the possible legal interpretations on this new technique. The paper turned out to be a really interdisciplinary study, and my greatest satisfaction so far.

I feel it is rewarding and challenging at the same time. The rewarding part is that I am curious about technology.  Learning about new technological developments is exciting. The challenging part is that talking with people from different backgrounds meant that I learned how to make things simple to understand without too many technological jargons.

Yuan _picture1.jpg
Yuan and Nuoya with the other HEART early stage researchers.

What are the next steps in your research towards the end of the HEART project?

I am working on my PhD dissertation now, and I am trying to make all the aspects into a good story.

Currently I am analysing data collected from China and interview stakeholders from China. Meanwhile the researchers at ISINNOVA (a consultant providing specific training) are helping us to develop the application scenario for the Heart platform. In the next stage, we are going to working on developing the prototype for the Heart project.

IMG-1885.jpg Nuoya Chen_IMG-1828.jpg
Nuoya Chen presenting her research results at the Innovation for Health conference (February 2020, Rotterdam) in Life Sciences and Health

How will your scientific discovery be important or relevant for the ordinary citizens and their everyday life? How do you think that your scientific discovery will influence them and in what measure?

Everyday our world is changing. Everyone is talking about data. Yet not everyone understands how the data we created in our daily activities can be properly used and what consequences it could have. Earlier this year I spoke to a school where I introduced the laws on protecting juniors’ interests. I was very happy to tell them what will be the consequences if they post their pictures on social media and how they can protect themselves from others illegally collecting personal information via online platforms. Next time they open a new website, they may think twice before clicking “I agree” on a cookie notification. This is an example of how I could serve the ordinary citizens and serve the society.

With COVID-19 and social distancing to become the new normal, I believe e-health/AI will play a greater role in people’s daily life in promoting access to healthcare, precision diagnosis and treatment. I do believe life quality of users will improve with the wide application of smart health solutions. Therefore my work focuses on finding out how to implement these solutions.

What have you learned by now that will impact the most on your future research path?

In pursuing my research works I have undoubtedly encountered obstacles. I received rejections from a journal paper submission, or the study did not work as anticipated at the beginning, or ten new legislative documents were released in one week, etc. However, all these obstacles can lead to greater understanding of my study. Things will never go as I planned, so I am patient to learn and practice.

I think technology is evolving very rapidly and capital is moving along with it. However, making an innovation is a long-term effort and I hope I can stay in the health and big data field longer.

In these dramatic times of pandemics, how are the HEART project results relatable with the SARS-CoV-2 emergency, also considering your privileged viewpoint of a Chinese citizen coming from the Hubei province, where the city of Wuhan is located?

I was born in Wuhan, grew up in Wuhan, and my family is in Wuhan during this whole pandemic time. It breaks my heart to see my home city being ill, and people there combating the coronavirus. Viewing all the disease controlling measures that the Chinese government and Chinese people have implemented, it is without doubt that information technology plays an essential role in the application of all the measures. While most of the people voluntarily shared their data to trace positive cases or to predict high risk regions, I am particularly concerned about the misuse of the health- and activity-related personal information. Together with other Chinese scholars, we raised a proposal on the fairness and transparency processing of health-related personal information in disease control this February.
Additionally, from the technical perspective, the pandemic brings remote working and smart healthcare into the public’s views. The HEART project can benefit people in remote healthcare, elderly care, and so on.

I find proud to be a member of the HEART project and a Chinese citizen at the moment. My research in the future can potentially help people.

Ultimo aggiornamento  2020/06/23 16:55:04 GMT+2
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