Degree Overview

Degree Overview

Northeastern’s Personal Health Informatics Doctoral Program is unique in that it focuses on:

  • A truly transdisciplinary approach, combining computer science, design, and health;
  • Studying patient-facing interaction within medical/health experiences (hospital, clinic, home, workplace, community);
  • Individual and team-based experiential learning to provide exposure to the medical/health settings and professionals with varying styles of research and scholarship;
  • Evaluation of technologies in field settings;
  • The health science perspective as opposed to the “medical,” physician-oriented perspective;
  • Wellness, healthcare, and recovery; and
  • Embracing entrepreneurship and the dispersal of technologies into real-world settings.

Year 1

Students will take core courses in theoretical foundations of health interface design, software engineering, human-computer interaction, and statistics. Some course content will link with a usability evaluation practicum requirement, where all students will gain experience observing an environment where personal health informatics technology could play a future role helping people or patients. Some students may observe hospital/clinical settings, others may observe people in at-risk communities, depending upon the student’s research interests. The student will develop proposals for improving patient care and enhancing wellness using patient-facing technology and present those ideas to other students and faculty.

Year 2

In addition to other core courses (research methods) and an elective to support research, students participate in a two-semester, team-taught course, Personal Health Interface Design, Development, and Evaluation, where they work in teams to assess needs in the field using experiences from their practicums and collaboratively design, develop, deploy, and evaluate a personal health or wellness interface technology, either in a local clinical setting or among a population of at-risk individuals associated with one of Bouvé’s centers. This research will provide practical experience working in the field with consumers/patients, creating sophisticated technology, conducting formal needs assessment and evaluation, and writing high-quality publications. Modules throughout the course, taught by faculty affiliated with the Personal Health Informatics Doctoral Program, will provide additional core material such as running clinical trials, health dialogue systems, computerized sensing systems, etc. Students will also engage with industry representatives from the industrial consortium affiliated with the Ph.D. program to solve problems within the organizations of their members.

Year 3

Students complete their qualification exam (taking a special readings course and a final elective to support their research) and then develop a dissertation proposal.

Years 4-5

Students work on individual research projects. We anticipate students graduating from this program will have multiple, strong publications showing proficiency in building and deploying novel technologies for consumer- and patient-focused care.

Learning Outcomes

The Doctoral Degree in Personal Health Informatics is a research-oriented degree that will prepare students for research excellence in an area of personal health informatics. As such, some learning outcomes will differ from student-to-student. However, all students graduating with a PhD in Personal Health Informatics must achieve the following learning outcomes:

  • Gain a broad understanding of personal health informatics fundamentals, spanning a substantial proportion of the following core areas: behavioral change and health technology, human-computer interface design and development, research methods and statistics, and research challenges in personal health informatics.
  • Gain significant expertise in at least one research area in personal health informatics.
  • Produce and defend original research in an area of personal health informatics.
  • Be able to communicate research results effectively in both oral and written forms.

Read more about the degree requirements…

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