This month we spoke to PhD student Melissa Aji. We asked Melissa a few questions about her research.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I am a PhD candidate within the Faculty of Medicine and Health, The University of Sydney. Prior to this, I graduated with a Bachelor of Psychology (Honours) from Macquarie University with a thesis on selective attention within cognitive psychology.
In addition to my studies, I am working at the Brain and Mind Centre on various mental health projects including a sleep intervention within a psychiatric population.
What is your research on?
My PhD aims to examine the design and use of a novel mobile app that we have developed within a multi-disciplinary team of clinicians, scientists and software engineers. We applied a participatory design approach in analysing the current mHealth marketplace and user preferences in insomnia apps. This informed the development of our fully automated mobile app designed to deliver a component of cognitive behavioural therapy to people with insomnia disorder. It provides a personalised program and can be synchronised with a wearable device. My project focuses on assessing the usability and efficacy of our app in treating insomnia.
What are the real world consequences of your research?
Typing ‘sleep’ into the App store will bring back search results of over a hundred programs, ranging from relaxing sounds to hypnosis therapies. However, the vast majority of these applications are not evidence-based. Ultimately, my research aims to provide an effective digitally-aided therapy for people with sleep difficulties. In doing so, we hope to deliver a cost-effective method of treatment that can be easily accessed at home without a clinician.
What does digital health mean to you?
Digital health is a broad term that encompasses the use of technology, data, and digital communication to develop innovative ways in improving healthcare. It not only provides an opportunity for health professionals to deliver care in an effective and efficient way, but also empowers consumers to select the way they receive healthcare services and manage their health. In this sense, people are at the centre of digital health and it is crucial to ensure human engagement in all stages of research, from design to implementation. Digital health provides an effective solution to making healthcare more accessible and addressing highly prevalent, but undertreated issues such as insomnia. Although there have been promising developments in digital health, more research is needed to leverage technology in further transforming the healthcare landscape.
A very big thank you to Melissa for taking the time to be our July feature.