Beyond research, in order to achieve societal impact, the development of Virtual Humans requires the involvement of a diverse range of health-related stakeholders, including patients, educators, and policymakers.
Patient benefit is the ultimate outcome of health research and therefore patients need to be involved throughout the development timeline, from design through the final result.
Given that Virtual Humans represent a relatively recent technological innovation in its early maturity phase, including few clinical precedents, they need to be conceived with the end user in mind, including considerations for design and user experience, beyond technology. Therefore, liaison with experts in public and patient involvement (PPI), such as the national PPI Ignite Network coordinated by NUI Galway, is pivotal to ensure sustainable and impactful research outcome.
Similarly, education stakeholders are instrumental to fostering understanding of, and thereby access to, Virtual Human-associated technologies. Not only shall such access facilitate adoption of these technologies, but also spark interest in being involved in their development among future generations of technologists. For example, Virtuome, the NUI Galway-hosted research programme involves undergraduate students from across Ireland to collaborate on digital health-related challenges, including technology development for community impact, thereby generating value by accelerating the development of digital health innovations through diversified stakeholder involvement.
With the international digital health community growing exponentially and technologies maturing, it is also pivotal to inform and involve policy makers and regulators among the target stakeholders. It is vital to ensure that digital health considerations are included in the healthcare strategies at national and international levels.
The NUI Galway representation in international associations, such as the Avicenna Alliance and the Virtual Physiological Human Institute, is crucial in order to proactively contribute to the shaping of the international in silico medicine landscape and make expert recommendations to the relevant policymakers, including at European Union level.
Therefore, using a collaborative multi-stakeholder approach, NUI Galway strives to support the translation of digital health innovations, with a focus on Virtual Humans, from the research and development through the healthcare implementation stages, to accelerate the realisation of precision health strategies that maximise the wellbeing of society.