Promoting health through digital inclusion

Just as good health is characterised by socio-economic and demographic inequalities, there are concerns about a digital divide – for example in access to digital technologies, understanding of digital technologies and of the information provided (eHealth literacy) and the adoption of these technologies to help improve health. We are committed to understanding the causes of digital exclusion and addressing them.

Plymouth Institute of Health and Care Research is committed to understanding the causes of digital exclusion and addressing them.


This £75,000 project, co-funded by NHS Kernow Clinical and NHS Northern, Eastern and Western Devon Clinical Commissioning Groups and the South West Academic Health Science Network, explores enablers, barriers and effectiveness of the online evaluation tool, eConsult used in Cornwall and Devon. 

This project critically responds to the need for independent evaluation on online consultation tools and addresses identified limitations of existing research by exploring the perspectives of both healthcare providers and patients and its cost implications. With the implementation of eConsult at an early stage and an increasing drive towards its expansion, an accurate understanding of its effectiveness is imperative.

Dr Arunangsu Chatterjee

Centre for Health Technology Pop-up

As part of a number of projects funded by the UKRI place-based partnerships for public engagement worth £1.4million, a Centre for Health Technology pop-up was created in Stonehouse, Plymouth; one of the most deprived areas in the UK. The aim of the pop-up centre was to address health inequalities and social deprivation introducing local residents to digital technology and eHealth solutions (e.g. companion robots, apps, VR and internet-based health and welfare resources) in a building in the heart of the community.

(Willis, Jones, Asthana).

Remote Assessment and Management

There are 13.9 million people with disabilities in the UK, many of whom are physically disabled. The Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent reduction in face-to-face appointments has meant people of all ages have received no rehabilitation with the need growing with recovering Covid-19 patients. In response to the crisis, clinicians have found new ways of working and are rapidly adapting and creating telerehabilitation solutions with little, specific guidance, training or support and resulting variation in approaches. This NIHR-funded project has created a telerehabilitation toolkit and training package for current and future clinicians.

 (FreemanBuckinghamMarsden, Jones, Kent, Demain, Gunn, Logan)

Remote-by-Default Care in the COVID-19 Pandemic

COVID-19 has transformed the way the NHS operates – for the first time people are unable to walk into a GP surgery. 

This £750,000 project, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and led by Professor Trisha Greenhalgh from the University of Oxford, investigates what will be required to scale-up and deliver better remote care. Working closely with ‘deep-end’ practices that service highly deprived populations, Rybczynska-Bunt and Byng are leading the Plymouth site which will focus on the impact of remote by default on individuals living in poverty or with complex needs.

Technology implementation and behaviour change

eCoacher (Taylor) was a multi-centred randomised controlled trial that investigated the effects of adding web-based coaching to an exercise referral scheme. We explore the role of eHealth solutions (such as apps and online group interventions) in motivating people to change health-related behaviours, such as weight loss (May, Jones, Milne-Ives M, Swancutt, Burns, Pinkney, Tarrant, Calitri, Chatterjee, Meinert), diabetes self-care (Edwards, Bradwell, Jones, Shawe) and adherence (Milne-Ives, Meinert). Meinert and Milne-Ives are also researching the use of mobile apps for health behaviour change, e.g. through their Health Education England funded evaluation of the NoObesity Professionals and NoObesity Families apps.

(Taylor, Andrade, May)

Technology Enhanced Asthma Care

The Centre for Health Technology's Dr Edward Meinert is leading the University of Plymouth's part of the Technology Enhanced integrAted asthMa care (TEAM-care). This project brings together specialists from the University of Plymouth, King’s College London and Queen Mary University London  to study the potential for new monitoring technologies to support children with asthma.  Funded by £1.9 million from the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) i4i Challenge Awards, it will examine the performance of two commercial products, Wheezo and Propellor Health. 

Read more about the project

The Digital Revolution

Professor Shangming Zhou’s research focuses on artificial intelligence (AI) and statistics in health and biomedical informatics: data-driven health-related studies using techniques, such as machine learning/deep learning, natural language processing, computational intelligence (artificial neural networks, fuzzy logic, nature-inspired computing etc), statistical analytics, and data mining.

Two current projects are mining data from electronic patient codes. First, deep phenotyping is being used to predict the development of colorectal cancer stages, including the potential return of cancer after treatment and associated multimorbidity. By revealing connections and interactions between phenotypic factors, the researchers seek ultimately to explore how and why cancer affects people differently and suggest how treatment and prevention could be individualised for sufferers. Second, AI is being applied to electronic records to build evidence for the safe use of medications to assist practitioners in improving their medication-use systems to prevent medication errors and patient harm.

In another project and in collaboration with the charity SUDEP Action and SUVO company, Professor Zhou and his team are using patient self-generated data via the Epilepsy Self-Monitoring (EpSMon) app to identify the risks and health outcomes of childbearing women. Through this research, they hope to gain an understanding of how digital technologies might be used to improve the wellbeing of expectant mothers who suffer from seizures.

Supported by Health Data Research UK and an international partner, Professor Zhou and his team are also developing data-driven solutions to identify the complex interactions between the socioeconomic, cultural and environmental factors that contribute to individual- and population-level health outcomes. In particular, the team advances local modelling technology to explore interactions of these factors at a micro-level across different sub-regions of data space so that they can effectively identify those sub-populations. They hope this will provide important insights into targeted policy development and intervention.