06 February 2024

LiU’s interdisciplinary investment in e-health is here to stay. In a project course, students from the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences are working together with students from the Faculty of Science and Engineering to develop digital solutions. An environment where different perspectives, backgrounds and ideas meet. 

Four students outside.
Julia Ohlsson Orell, Hanna Kaakati, Cecilia Schanning and Simon Broborg.  Charlotte Perhammar
“We are from completely different worlds. Here I’ve had to challenge myself and think about what I’m good at and how I can contribute to the project,” says Hanna Kaakati. On the table is the report just submitted. The background murmur is intense, with a lot of laughter. Four engineering students and three students studying the Master’s programme in Medical Science have worked together for a semester. The project course being online, this is the first time four of them meet in real life.

Widening their perspectives

The goal was to put previous theoretical knowledge into practice to organise and implement an e-health project. The group chose to develop a web application where healthcare professionals can self-assess their cultural competence via a form.Four students.Hanna Kaakati, Cecilia Schanning, Simon Broborg and Julia Ohlsson Orell. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar
How did it go? Just fine. But there were challenges along the way.

“It’s been extremely rewarding. Suddenly someone comes and asks what is a programming framework, really? You realise that it’s not entirely obvious to others and I’ve really had to widen my perspectives,” says Master of Science in Engineering student Julia Ohlsson Orell.

Hanna Kaakati, who is an occupational therapist, adds:

“We’re used to working with soft values and fewer standard solutions. Those who come from the Faculty of Science and Engineering like having tools that are more structured. Here, we’ve had to meet in the middle and create a consensus. This has given me an overall picture, which maybe I didn’t get when studying with people whose reasoning is very much like mine.”

Communication is key

In their work on the web application, those with a medical background have contributed more in terms of user perspective and content, while students from the Faculty of Science and Engineering have primarily been responsible for the technical part. Working on an interdisciplinary project, while at the same time having to move forward quickly, requires clear communication.

“Communication is extremely important. I think we’ve all had to bend over backwards. Sometimes we say one thing, but people in the group interpret it in completely different ways,” says Simon Broborg, Master of Science in Engineering student.

Cecilia Schanning is a nurse and is now studying medical science. Forcing herself out of her comfort zone and learning to be flexible has been rewarding.

“We’ve all contributed our knowledge, and we’ve had free rein in many ways. We’ve followed a requirement specification that we revised during the course of the project and it’s been great fun shaping the web application in that way.”

But how far did the group actually get? The fact is that, with some adjustments, a pilot version wouldn’t be far away.
Jane Holstein, occupational therapist, teacher and researcher at the Department of Health, Medicine and Caring Sciences, is course coordinator together with Elin Nyman at the Department of Biomedical Engineering. For Jane Holstein, this round was extra special. Of the five project proposals that were available, the students chose the one linked to her research area.

“The instrument on self-assessment of cultural competence that has been researched by me and various colleagues, including from the USA, is new in Sweden. At present, there is only an analogue version, so it’s been exciting to follow the development of a digital version. I’ve felt very safe and the students have come further than I could have imagined.”

So, what happens, will the project live on?

“I’d like to see a continuation where I hope the students can help me get this going. So, we'll see what will happen in the future.”

“It’s about interdisciplinarity”

All of the students would like to see the project live on.

“Having this on your CV would be a big thing, for sure,” says Simon Broborg.

Hanna Kaakati:

“We’ve discussed hopefully being able to connect our idea with ongoing research, so it would be great if it lived on.”

While it would be enriching for everyone involved if the application becomes a reality, this is not the main goal of the course.

“No, and it can sometimes be difficult as a student to understand that the course goals are primarily about interdisciplinary collaboration and not just developing a new app to market,” says Jane Holstein.

Håkan Örman, who is a teacher at the Department of Biomedical Engineering, has been involved in driving the interdisciplinary e-health initiative since its inception in 2019. He is impressed with the quality. Two persons standing outside.Håkan Örman and Jane Holstein. Photo credit Charlotte Perhammar

“The students should be very proud of themselves and it’s great to see how the implementation becomes a tool for reaching the learning goals. This is not the first time a project lives on and that’s proof that we’re doing something very good.”

He has been at LiU since 1997, and the e-health initiative is what he has enjoyed the most.

“Getting all the skills together, both at teaching and student level, is not only great fun, but also challenging and good for personal development. Sure, it can be hard sometimes, but the reward is great!”

How do you see LiU and e-health in the future?

“E-health and digitalisation are timely issues, and everything is going very fast. I think it’s very important that we do this as a collective effort, and the initiative is here to stay,” says Jane Holstein.

Footnote: The other students in the project were Anna Berg, Isak Granström and Greta Nilsson.

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