About PHI

Program Description and Overview

Research and innovation in consumer- and patient-focused health systems

Northeastern’s Ph.D. in Personal Health Informatics (PHI) is a new transdisciplinary doctoral program focused on educating top researchers in the theoretical underpinnings, design, evaluation, and dissemination of consumer- and patient-focused health systems. Personal health technologies are those that non-health professionals interact with directly, both in and out of a clinical setting and in various life stages of illness and wellness.

Examples include:

  • Assistive technologies that aid persons with disabilities;
  • Consumer wellness promotion technologies;
  • Patient education and counseling systems;
  • Interfaces for reviewing personal health records;
  • Advanced ambulatory monitoring for supporting health;
  • Automated eldercare systems that monitor health and support independent living; and
  • Social networking systems connecting families and their social and medical support networks

Developing personal health interface technologies requires that professionals have skills and experience designing systems for individual patients and consumers with a wide range of backgrounds in different contexts using a variety of media, while ensuring that fielded technologies are effective, reliable, and responsive to the needs of at-risk and patient populations. Critical skills and knowledge include needs assessment, theories of interface design and health behavior, rapid prototyping and implementation, experimental design with human subjects in challenging settings, and statistical data analysis and validation. Moreover, these skills must be deployed while working with, or leading, transdisciplinary teams.

The interdisciplinary nature of the program targets students who are interested in improving health and wellness using novel technologies that directly impact the lives of consumers and patients. This is a program for students who are not only technically strong but also socially conscious, design-oriented, and interested in rigorously evaluating the technologies they imagine and build. The program provides a path for technical students to acquire more experience in the deployment and evaluation of health technologies in the field, but also a path for students with health backgrounds to develop the technical skills needed to prototype and assess creative ideas they envision for improving care. The expected length of study will be 5 years after the bachelor’s degree.

Why a Ph.D. in PHI?…

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