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DHI MSc Blog: Why I chose to study Digital Health

Part of the blog series from MSc students funded by the Digital Health & Care Institute

Thursday, March 29, 2018
Ramsay Meiklem

Why I chose to study Digital Health

If you had suggested “digital health” as a subject of study or a career to me five years ago when I was in my final year of high school and deciding what I wanted to do next, I wouldn’t have known what it meant and I’d have likely dismissed the field with the assumption “health” implied a lot of initial understanding and study into health, similar to studying medicine. Instead it wasn’t until completing my fourth year project at the University of Strathclyde, as part of my Computer Science degree, I heard about digital health.

The project had been to develop an application which will allow an adult user with a mild learning disability to be able to record their medical symptoms and information and then present the collected information to the doctor or consultant, supervised by Dr Matt-Mouley Bouamrane. This had included app development, evaluation of the final application and considerable background research into what technologies already existed to assist and support individuals with learning disabilities to communicate. But it became clear that there was no “perfect solution” to the problem I had to address. There was no specific assistive technology for communication symptoms during consultations, many of were intended for children or in learning environments  such as schools. It became easier to find studies and research into what didn’t work, considerations for my own application.

In the end, I produced an application I was proud of and a report alongside it. Near the submission date, my supervisor Matt suggested applying for a new Masters course at Strathclyde, Digital Health Systems. I had enjoyed my project, putting all the skills and techniques I had learned over the last four years into practice but also potentially making a difference to someone like me, living with a disability and struggling with everyday tasks. In a way, digital health put purpose to all my computer science studies. I could be working on apps that recorded symptoms, devices to support independent living, platforms for remote consultations or systems that manage entire hospitals, all aiming to improve health and quality of life.

Since I’ve started the course in September, I’ve came to understand digital health is more than just building software and applications. While continuing to teach skills and techniques for software development (such as designing usable systems and database management), the course has also provided an insight to healthcare and technologies that support it (from digital health implementation to analytics of health data). Importantly, we have looked at the pitfalls and failings of past projects at regional and national scales, learning how we can avoid repeating these and provide effective solutions. As I’ve studied the course, I’ve become more sure of this is what I want to do when I head into industry, something I have never been sure of before.

Ramsay Meiklem