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Deployment and evaluation of complex computerised interventions to enhance patient safety in primary care

Project Description

This position will remain open until a suitable candidate is found. A formal application must be submitted to be considered. The Studentship is expected to commence from 1 October 2018 but a January 2019 start dates will be considered.

The Greater Manchester Patient Safety Translational Research Centre (GM PSTRC; develops and tests evidence-based digital and behavioural interventions to improve patient safety in primary care and at transitions between care settings. The PhD project is part of the GM PSTRC Safety Informatics theme, which focuses methods and tools that can leverage digital records to reveal and manage safety by producing actionable information for clinicians and patients.

The project will build on two previously developed computer systems that allow general practices to avoid potentially unsafe prescribing (Salford MedicAtion Safety dasHboard; SMASH) and improve the management of long-term conditions (the Performance Improvement plaN GeneratoR; PINGR). Both systems have been rolled out in Salford primary care. The PhD project will focus on two new projects within Safety Informatics:

(1) Develop state-of-the-art actionable patient-facing messages to be delivered via smartphone applications to engage patients in their care; Co-design in partnership with patients; Deploy in clinical practice; Evaluate the potential effects on patient care and the doctor-patient relationship.

(2) Explore the feasibility and utility of using controlled randomised experiments (“A/B testing”) to optimise the usability and effectiveness of existing clinical decision support systems (SMASH and PINGR) in primary care.

In both projects, the PhD student will work in close collaboration with the GM PSTRC Safety Informatics team (Prof Niels Peek, Dr Ben Brown, Mr Richard Williams, Mr David Jenkins, and Dr Sudeh Cheraghi-Sohi). A balanced set of objectives for the PhD thesis, within the remit of these two projects, will be defined together with the student.

This PhD student will be based at the Centre for Health Informatics (CHI) and is fully funded by the GM PSTRC.

Excellent specialised training for developing and evaluating complex computerised interventions will be provided. Supervisors Peek and Brown have conducted many studies in this area, and their team of postdoctoral researchers and PhD students in the Centre for Health Informatics will provide additional ad hoc advice and support. The project will build on Cheraghi-Sohi’s work on diagnostic errors and test result interpretation in general practice conducted during the GM PSTRC 2012-2017. The succesful candidate will also work closely with Mr Richard Williams, a senior software engineer who has developed both the SMASH and PINGR interventions. The successful candidate would also attend informatics courses at the University, including modules from the Masters in Health Data Science, as well as short courses in the Faculty of Biology Medicine and Health. The successful candidate would be expected to regularly journal cub and research group meetings at the Centre for Health Informatics. Funding for attending external courses and/or presenting research findings at conferences will also be available. Specific skills to be developed will include: Critical appraisal of published literature and extraction of relevant data; Evaluation methods in health informatics; Oral and written presentation skills.

Applicants are expected to hold, or about to obtain, a minimum upper second class undergraduate degree (or equivalent) in Computer Science or Biomedical Engineering, or a primarily quantitative or health-related discipline. A Masters degree in a relevant subject and/or experience in intervention evaluation or health services research is desirable.

Funding Notes

NIHR Patient Safety Translational Research Centre Greater Manchester. Fees, stipend and consumables to be provided by this award.


Brown B, Balatsoukas P, Williams R, Sperrin M, Buchan I. Multi-method laboratory user evaluation of an actionable clinical performance information system: Implications for usability and patient safety. J Biomed Inform. 2018 Jan;77:62-80. doi: 10.1016/j.jbi.2017.11.008.

Brown B, Smeeth L, van Staa T, Buchan I. Better care through better use of data in GP-patient partnerships. Br J Gen Pract. 2017 Feb;67(655):54-55.

Fraccaro P, Vigo M, Balatsoukas P, Buchan IE, Peek N, van der Veer SN. The influence of patient portals on users' decision making is insufficiently investigated: A systematic methodological review. Int J Med Inform. 2018 Mar;111:100-111.

Fraccaro P, Vigo M, Balatsoukas P, van der Veer SN, Hassan L, Williams R, Wood G, Sinha S, Buchan I, Peek N. Presentation of laboratory test results in patient portals: influence of interface design on risk interpretation and visual search behaviour. BMC Med Inform Decis Mak. 2018 Feb;18(1):11.

Kohavi R, Longbotham R, Sommefield D, Henne RM. Controlled experiments on the web: survey and practical guide. Data Min Knowl Disc (2009) 18:140–181.

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