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Dr Sam Howard (2012 cohort)

Investigating the attitudes of adolescents and healthcare professionals towards electronic monitoring devices for Asthma

Dr Sam Howard was the first CDT student complete from the 2012 cohort in October 2016. His Horizon CDT research drew on an identified need to accurately monitor how adherent asthma patients are to their inhaled medication, in order to detect when patients are at risk, when they require intervention, and the impact of different interventions in clinical trials to understand how adherence can best be improved.

Research focus: Sam’s decision to focus on the use of Electronic Monitoring Devices (EMDs) in Asthma for his PhD research was as they offer the most precise method for recording inhaler use and have shown to improve adherence when they contain a reminder function or adherence data is fed-back to the patient. However, in 2012, there had been little to no research to date investigating how EMDs can be designed and developed to ensure they meet the needs of both patients and healthcare providers.

Research activity: His novel research resulted in various international collaborative publications and speaking engagements including in acceptances for the BMJ’s Open Respiratory Research journal, the European Respiratory Journal and the International Symposium on Human Factors and Ergonomics in Healthcare. Research and data collection methods included questionnaires, interviews, 3-way Delphi surveys, workshops, as well as tech-trials with sixth-form pupils at Long Eaton School in Derbyshire.

Potential impact: It is envisaged that potential impact from Sam’s research will result in helping inform the future development of EMDs through identifying important issues for both patients and healthcare professionals, acting as a trigger for future user-focused research in asthma care as the attitudes of other patient groups such as the elderly, or consideration of patients from different economic and social backgrounds going forwards.

Postdoc career: After completing his PhD, Sam firstly went on to a Research Associate role in the Horizon Digital Economy Hub, and then in April 2017, launched an expert-led user experience digital start-up, Userfy, which is based in Nottingham, where he is now Founder and Director of Research. After being the first member of his cohort to successfully pass his PhD Viva in October 2016, Sam graduated at the University of Nottingham Graduation Ceremony in July 2017.