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Digital Health Project Course, Spring Semester 2022, University of St.Gallen

Can medical Alexas make us more healthy? (The New York Times, April 2021), Wearables as a tool for measuring therapeutic adherence in behavioral health (npj Digital Medicine, May 2021), Improving community healthcare screenings with smartphone-based AI technologies (The Lancet Digital Health, May 2021), Predictive analytics and tailored interventions improve clinical outcomes (npj Digital Medicine, June 2021), H1 2021 secured $14.7B in digital health funding, already surpassing all of 2020ʹs funding (Rock Health, 2021)

What are the implications and rationale behind the recent developments in the field of digital health?

Digital Health is the use of information and communication technology for the prevention and treatment of diseases in the everyday life of individuals. It is thus linked to topics such as digital health interventions, digital biomarkers, digital coaches and healthcare chatbots, telemedicine, mobile and wearable computing, self‐tracking, personalized medicine, connected health, smart homes, or smart cars.

In the 20th century, healthcare systems specialized in acute care. In the 21st century, we now face the challenge of dealing with the specific characteristics of non‐communicable diseases. These are now responsible for around 70% of all deaths worldwide and 85% of all deaths in Europe and are associated with an estimated economic loss of $7 trillion between 2011 and 2025. Chronic and mental diseases are characterized in particular by the fact that they require an intervention paradigm that focuses on prevention and lifestyle change. Lifestyle (e.g., diet, physical activity, tobacco, or alcohol consumption) can reduce the risk of suffering from a chronic condition or, if already present, can reduce its burden. A corresponding change in lifestyle is, however, only implemented by a fraction of those affected, partly because of missing or inadequate interventions or health literacy, partly due to socio‐cultural influences. Individual personal coaching of these individuals is neither scalable nor financially sustainable.

To this end, the question arises on how to develop evidence‐based digital health interventions (DHIs) that allow medical doctors and other caregivers to scale and tailor long‐term treatments to individuals in need at sustainable costs. At the intersection of health economics, behavioral medicine, information systems research, and computer science, this lecture has the objective to help students and upcoming healthcare executives interested in the multi‐disciplinary field of digital health to better understand the need, design, implementation, and assessment of DHIs.

After the course, students will be able to…

  1. understand the importance of DHIs for the management of chronic and mental conditions
  2. discuss the opportunities and challenges related to DHIs
  3. better understand the design, implementation and evaluation of smartphone‐based and chatbot‐delivered DHIs

To reach the learning objectives, students will work on the following topics:

1. Motivation for Digital Health

  • The rise of chronic diseases in developed countries
  • Lifestyle as medicine and prevention of chronic diseases

2. Design of a Digital Health Intervention (DHI)

  • Overview of design frameworks for health interventions
  • Development of a conceptual model for a DHI
  • Implementation of a smartphone‐based and chatbot‐delivered DHI

3. Evaluation of DHIs

  • Overview of evaluation methods and evaluation criteria for DHIs
  • Evaluation of a smartphone‐based and chatbot‐delivered DHI

Course Structure

The course is structured in two parts and follows the concept of a blended treatment consisting of live sessions and complementary online material. In the live sessions, students will learn and discuss the topics of the three learning modules. Complementary learning material (e.g., video clips), multiple‐choice questions, and exercises are provided online via Canvas.

In the second part, students work in teams and will use their knowledge from the first part of the lecture to develop a smartphone‐based and chatbot‐delivered health intervention with MobileCoach (www.mobile‐coach.eu), an open-source software platform for the development of digital biomarker and digital health interventions. Each team will then present and discuss the resulting digital health intervention and evaluation results with their fellow students who will provide peer reviews. Additional live coaching sessions are offered to support the teams with the design and evaluation of their digital health intervention, and with the preparation of their presentations.

Course Literature

  1. Collins, L. M. (2018) Optimization of Behavioral, Biobehavioral, and Biomedical Interventions: The Multiphase Optimization Strategy (MOST) New York: Springer.
  2. Corneta, V. P., and R. J. Holden (2018) Systematic Review of Smartphone‐Based Passive Sensing for Health and Wellbeing Journal of Biomedical Informatics (77:January), 120‐132.
  3. Coravos, A., S. Khozin and K. D. Mandl (2019) Developing and Adopting Safe and Effective Digital Biomarkers to Improve Patient Outcomes npj Digital Medicine 2 Paper 14.
  4. Katz, D. L., E. P. Frates, J. P. Bonnet, S. K. Gupta, E. Vartiainen and R. H. Carmona (2018) Lifestyle as Medicine: The Case for a True Health Initiative American Journal of Health Promotion 32 (6), 1452‐1458.
  5. Kowatsch, T., L. Otto, S. Harperink, A. Cotti and H. Schlieter (2019) A Design and Evaluation Framework for Digital Health Interventions it‐Information Technology 61(5‐6), 253‐263.
  6. Kvedar, J. C., A. L. Fogel, E. Elenko and D. Zohar (2016) Digital medicineʹs march on chronic disease Nature Biotechnology 34 (3), 239‐246.
  7. Michie, S., L. Yardley, R. West, K. Patrick and F. Greaves (2017) Developing an Evaluating Digital Interventions to Promote Behaviour Change in Health and Health Care: Recommendations Resulting From an International Workshop Journal of Medical Internet Research 19(6):e232.
  8. Nahum‐Shani, I., S. N. Smith, B. J. Spring, L. M. Collins, K. Witkiewitz, A. Tewari and S. A. Murphy (2018) Just‐in‐Time Adaptive Interventions (JITAIs) in Mobile Health: Key Components and Design Principles for Ongoing Health Behavior Support Annals of Behavioral Medicine 52 (6), 446‐462.

Mandatory material
The mandatory material will be provided via the online learning platform Canvas no later than April 30, 2022.

Course Prerequisites

Students should be interested in the multi‐disciplinary field of Digital Health at the intersection of health economics, behavioral medicine, information systems research, and computer science. Attendance of the Digital Health course (11,202) is advantageous but not required. Programming skills may be helpful but are not required. That is, students will design and implement a mobile health intervention with the help of easy‐to‐follow video tutorials. Finally, a computer with a 13‐inch display (15‐inch or larger recommended) and a smartphone with either iOS 12 (or higher) or Android Version 8 (or higher) are required to test the mobile health intervention.

Additional Course Information

If you have any further questions regarding Digital Health Project, then please contact Robert Jakob.

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Summary

Digital Health Project, University of St.Gallen, Spring Semester 2022, 2 ECTS credits, Monday, 4:15 p.m. – 6:00 a.m. Relevant links:

HSG Course Fact Sheet

MobileCoach Tutorial Video Clips

MobileCoach User Forum

Lecturer
Prof. Dr. Tobias Kowatsch
Prof. Dr. Tobias KowatschAssistant Professor for Digital Health at the University of St. Gallen and Scientific Director of the Centre for Digital Health Interventions at ETH Zurich & University of St. Gallen
Contact Person
Robert Jakob
Robert JakobMSc Technology and Management (TUM)
Ph.D. candidate and doctoral researcher at the Centre for Digital Health Interventions with a focus on the Prediction and Prevention of Non-Adherence to Digital Health Interventions; Teaching Assistant Digital Health Project Course
Teaching Assistants
Robert Jakob
Robert JakobMSc Technology and Management (TUM)
Ph.D. candidate and doctoral researcher at the Centre for Digital Health Interventions with a focus on the Prediction and Prevention of Non-Adherence to Digital Health Interventions; Teaching Assistant Digital Health Project Course
Prabhakaran Santhanam
Prabhakaran SanthanamM.Sc. in Computer Science
MobileCoach Software Engineer and Community Manager at the Center for Digital Health Interventions
Fabian Schneider
Fabian SchneiderB.Sc. in Computer Science
MobileCoach Software Engineer and Community Manager at the Centre for Digital Health Interventions