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Researcher in the lab

Digital health

Using digital technologies for studying and improving health

As digital technologies continue to pervade our personal and professional lives, opportunities increasingly emerge to use these technologies for studying and improving health. These opportunities include the use of routine electronic health record data for research, application of artificial intelligence to improve clinical decision making, and connected health technologies for providing healthcare services remotely.

Digital health is one of most vibrant research areas at The University of Manchester, building on an exceptionally strong track record with more than 40 years of interdisciplinary research.

The domain connects researchers from disciplines across our schools and faculties, including:

  • health sciences;
  • informatics;
  • computer science;
  • biology;
  • clinical medicine;
  • nursing;
  • statistics;
  • epidemiology;
  • mathematics;
  • social and behavioural sciences;
  • health economics.

The University has world-leading capabilities in engineering and research methodology for digital health technologies, as shown through the bio-health informatics research programme at the School of Computer Science. Manchester has also recently joined the Alan Turing Institute, the national institute for data science and artificial intelligence, with a specific focus on health.

We also have particular strengths in applied digital health research with tangible impacts on health and society, carried out at the Health eResearch Centre (HeRC), the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre, and the NIHR Manchester Biomedical Research Centre.

Digital health technologies haved moved from being a curiosity to accepted research tools, and are now becoming mainstream in clinical medicine.

We have strong links with health practice. This includes Health Innovation Manchester; Salford Clinical Commissioning Group; Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust; The Christie; Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust; and the Greater Manchester Health and Social Care Partnership.

These are leveraged through our links with major healthcare systems suppliers such as EMIS, TPP, Vision, System C and Cerner, and global technology companies including Microsoft, Google and IBM.

The University of Manchester also plays a major role in local, regional, and national capacity building programmes in digital health and informatics, such as the MSc in Health Data Science in Manchester, the MSc in Health Informatics (with UCL), and the capacity building programme of Health Data Research UK.

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Our research in numbers

We are at the forefront of research in this field as proven by our commitment to flagship programmes and through our ability to host international conferences here at the University.

  • Researchers in digital health are embedded throughout the University, sitting in seven schools across three faculties.
  • Eight new chairs in digital health, or closely related fields, have been appointed over the last five years.
  • We organised the largest academic digital health conference in the UK to date, with more than 800 participants from over 30 countries.
  • The University of Manchester is the coordinating centre for Connected Health Cities, the flagship programme of the Northern Health Science Alliance.
  • Manchester has a mature, city wide digital health infrastructure, enabling access to routinely collected NHS data.
£83.5m
£20m
£2m

Areas of research activity

We conduct research across a number of areas, incorporating modern technology and developing systems for the future.

Connected health

Connected health is the broad term for using network-based technologies to provide healthcare services remotely. It encompasses telehealth, mobile health, and the use of environmental, home-based and wearable sensor technologies for health. It has the potential to radically change healthcare delivery.

 

Risk prediction

Healthcare services worldwide are moving away from being reactive and focused on illness, and have embraced approaches that are proactive,

preserve health, and prevent illness. This requires the ability to predict illness and disease progression before they actually happen.

Risk prediction has therefore become an important area of research over the last decade. In Manchester there is risk prediction research in various disciples (health sciences, computer science, and mathematics) with links to the Alan Turing Institute.

 

Artificial intelligence

Artificial intelligence has the capability to improve health outcomes by supporting clinical decision making. Recent breakthroughs in machine learning have revived excitement for this type of technology, and sparked new promises of radical improvement of healthcare services.

The challenge now is to successfully integrate this technology into decision-making processes, foster adoption by patients and clinicians, and prove its merit while navigating ethical and social concerns.

 

Learning health systems

Health systems, at any level of scale, become learning systems when they develop the ability to, continuously and routinely, study and improve themselves.

Digital technologies have the potential to trigger this ability by defining, structuring, creating and reusing data and knowledge.

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Featured projects

We have a broad portfolio of externally funded research projects with regional, national, and international partners.

Connected health cities

Lead: Professor John Ainsworth

£20m investment from the Department of Health and Social Care, to seed learning health systems in four city regions in North England.

Cloudy with a chance of pain

Lead: Professor Will Dixon

The world's first smartphone-based citizen science project to investigate the association between weather and chronic pain.

Smart Medication Safety dashboard (SMASH)

Lead: Professor Niels Peek and Professor Darren Ashcroft

Interactive web tool for safe prescribing in primary care, funded through the NIHR Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre.

ClinTouch

Leads: Professor Shôn Lewis and Professor John Ainsworth

A smartphone app with platform technology which helps people with psychosis to manage their symptoms. The technology was developed and tested with funding from the Medical Research Council and was recently spun out through the Manchester-based startup Affigo.io.

Healtex: UK healthcare text analytics research network

Lead: Professor Goran Nenadic

EPSRC-funded multidisciplinary research network that aims to facilitate the use of healthcare free-text in research and clinical practice.

The Wearable Clinic

Lead: Professor Niels Peek

A collaboration between the Universities of Manchester and York that aims to develop algorithms, statistical models, and software that integrate healthcare records with data collected from wearable sensors and smartphone technologies.

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Case studies

We work closely with patients and healthcare professionals to develop new digital health and care technologies that provide benefits to all stakeholders.

Health data on trial

Jury of citizens ponder tricky questions about health records.

Read more

 

Remora

The development, testing and evaluation of a smartphone app to remotely monitor symptoms in people living with rheumatoid arthritis.

Read more

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Contact

Professor Niels Peek, Domain Director
Tel:         +44 (0)161 3065058

Email:    niels.peek@manchester.ac.uk