Design of Health Technologies 

Fall 05, 320 Soda Hall, MW 2:30-4:00pm.

CS 294-1, CCN 26803

Instructor: John Canny, 529 Soda Hall, 642-9955, jfc at cs, office hours Tu3-4, W4-5

This is a regular 3-unit graduate course. 

Course Contents

Course Swiki (password protected)

Course Overview

This course is about the design of health technologies. Health care is an enormous industry in the US (est. at $1.4 trillion) and it faces great challenges with the aging of the boomer generation and the growing lifespan of the younger population. In many developing countries, health problems are the principal barrier to economic growth. On the flip side, there has been exciting progress in health technology. Improved automation of medical records, new sensing technologies, wide availability of mobile technologies, and improved treatments are all helping mitigate the health challenges to come. This course will be a broad survey of health technology. The course focuses on "health technology" rather than "health care technology" recognizing the need to consider health maintenance and wellness as primary goals for the future. Many current health crises like obesity, hypertension, malaria and respiratory illness in the developing world, are preventable if dealt with early. Early intervention is a far better economic strategy, and may be the only route to sustainable health in future.

The course is also a design course. The goal is to produce some novel designs and prototypes to address health problems discussed in the class. We will follow a human-centered design approach starting from the stake-holders' needs (patients, care-givers etc.) through to prototypes. Its impossible in a single course to give a comprehensive survey of health research. Instead the idea is to explore some problems that might be addressed in the short term with emerging technologies. This seems to be particularly true of non-traditional areas such as:

  1. Health maintenance in the home. "Smart home" technologies can help improve health in many ways from remote check-ups to long-term monitoring to recognizing crises. 
  2. Health issues in the developing world. New technologies make possible a variety of health improvements including environmental sensing, remote diagnosis, and health education. Often these technologies are quite simple and the emphasis is on cheap, sustainable solutions. 
  3. Mobile and worn devices. Some very inexpensive devices are appearing that allow continuous monitoring of chronic health problems. Mobile devices can also function as "wellness advisors" as people make everyday choices that affect their health. 

The technology emphasis of the course will be information technology and related technologies (like sensor technologies and electro-mechanical systems). Other technology areas may be explored depending on student interest and (volunteers?) willingness to tutor the class through the design issues in that area. 

Outside Speakers

The course touches on many health issues that are outside the instructor's expertise. There will be many presentations from guest speakers from e.g. Berkeley's School of Public Health, from the Health Care Industry, and from other Industries (e.g. IT) that are developing Health Initiatives. 

Intended Audience

This is a design course and the goal is to produce working prototypes for health systems. To produce contextually-relevant designs, its important to have "user experts" on design teams. So the target audience includes engineering students, SIMS students, students from public health and public policy, and those with biosciences backgrounds. Students with other backgrounds who are willing to  work with team-mates and get their hands dirty with design prototypes are welcome to join. This is the first time this course has been offered, and the material and the audience is still a work in progress.  

Lecture Format

Classes will be held from 2:30-4pm Mondays and Wednesdays in 320 Soda. We will use a format that has evolved over time in my other graduate courses:

  1. A student-led presentation on the reading(s).
  2. Some commentary by me with additions and talking points.
  3. Class discussion on the readings in small groups, possibly followed by group summaries to the rest of the class. 
  4. A short description by me of the important points to look for in the *next* lecture's readings. 


Every enrolled student needs to hand in a list of two or three main points from each reading at the beginning of class. 


Projects can be computer programs, designs for information appliances, user studies and analysis, or papers that combine ideas from another discipline with computer science. More information will follow.