As our world becomes more and more digitized, patients and their devices are generating streams
of valuable data that can provide meaningful clinical insights. This digital health revolution
provides great opportunities to design and validate new digital health concepts. Many groups
within Stanford Medicine have promising ideas that are ripe for development, however, they lack
the software engineering and healthcare compliance know-how to take them forward.
Building for Digital Health is a Biodesign course sponsored by the Stanford School of Medicine (SoM)
and Stanford's Computer Science (CS) department. Its goal is to provide CS students with the
opportunity to apply their skills to real-world health technology development projects, while
enabling SoM faculty to leverage these talented individuals to help advance their technology
concepts toward patients. Both audiences will learn a repeatable approach for developing new
digital health technologies and preparing to launch them in the market.
Over the course of ten weeks, students and faculty will work together to tackle a project and
launch an app-enabled solution for research use. Every week, students will learn about app-development,
sensor technologies, privacy, security, and more. In the final week of class, teams will present
their final project (app) to a panel of digital health experts.
Gain exposure to unmet needs in the healthcare field and learn to design and build
secure digital solutions to address them.
Get experience working with technical and multidisciplinary teams with the help of
external mentors and industry experts who can help guide career paths in health tech
Become familiar with the iOS platform, the Swift programming language,
the use of CardinalKit and other open-source frameworks, and secure
data collection practices.
Please fill out the the skills survey
when you sign up for the class, so we are aware of your current skill level at the beginning
of the course.
No more than one unexcused absence is permitted. A second absence may be permitted
with written justification by the student and fulfillment of a make-up assignment.
Two or more unexcused absences will lead to a No CR grade.
Amount of Work Expected
Teams can expect up to 7-9 hours of work each week beyond classroom hours.
A majority of the effort is spent researching needs, meeting need coaches and
mentors, interviewing stakeholders, and coding solutions as a team.
Teams will complete a midterm and final presentation, discussing progress and functionality.
The final deliverable will be a research-ready iOS mobile application hosted on GitHub.
Code and IP created is governed by Stanford's standard IP procedures, and will be used to
inform University research.
Trainings and Certifications
Health research requires adherence to strict security and privacy protocols, and Stanford
requires researchers working in this area to obtain specific certifications. Specifically,
a Stanford HIPAA certificate is required, and will be obtained through
This certification will enable students to work on other IRB-approved research, and is a requirement
for most research within the School of Medicine. This training is offered through the STARS
system (use the link above).
Coding and Requirements
Teams will be coding throughout the quarter. We require that you have taken CS106A/B or equivalent.
We highly recommend some experience with mobile platforms (CS193P/A, CS47), OR web platforms (CS142).
Since we are working primarily on iOS, you will need access to a macOS computer running Xcode.
The Macs in residential clusters and at Lathrop come with Xcode pre-installed. You can checkout Macbook
Airs from the Tech Desk for up to 4 weeks through this link. See list of computers on-campus with Xcode
here or here.
Open Source + the iPhone as a platform for digital health
Learn about what makes the iPhone a powerful platform to develop clinical apps. Overview of
how some open source frameworks leverage iOS to accelerate medical research.
Using GitHub (https://github.com/CS342)
Become familiar with using GitHub to manage software development projects.
Using CardinalKit (https://cardinalkit.stanford.edu)
Developed with the goal of providing a suite of tools to build and accelerate your digital
health experience from the ground up — from an app itself to storing collected data in the cloud.
Using ResearchKit (https://www.apple.com/researchkit/)
Developed with the goal of streamlining the process of gathering robust and meaningful data.
Used to document patient-reported outcomes (surveys) and track a person’s reaction time, balance,
gait, mobility, among many other things.
Using CareKit (https://www.apple.com/carekit/)
Developed with the goal of helping track the development of symptoms and adherence to medication
over a period of time. Often used to help patients manage a particular health condition.
Using HealthKit (https://developer.apple.com/healthkit/)
We will use HealthKit to read health and activity data from the iPhone. This enables providers
to track a patient’s step count, heart rate, flights climbed, calories burned, and other similar
metrics over time. HealthKit also allows us to download electronic health records (EHR) to your
iPhone using the Fast Healthcare Interoperability Resources (FHIR) specification.
Using iPhone Sensors (https://developer.apple.com/documentation/coremotion)
We will use CoreMotion to track accelerometer, gyroscope, and pedometer data in real-time.
Backend for Data Visualization and Analysis on Google Cloud
Introduction to internet-enabled dynamic apps. We will build a web dashboard hosted on Google Cloud
to conceptualize how data can travel from a patient to a provider's hands in real-time. We will explore
how data can be analyzed using BigQuery.
Launching your first health app
We will discuss data privacy and HIPAA compliance in-depth. We will discuss IRB approval for those
interested in clinical-trial applications.
3 Units – CR/NC or Letter Grade
Students may elect to attend the course for CR/NC or for a Letter Grade.
In addition to attending classes, completing readings, and participating actively in
the classroom environment, students are required to complete a class project exploring
a need in digital mobile health. Projects are chosen in advance from a list of need areas,
sourced by faculty.
Grading will be based on:
10% Individual and team class participation; project teams must share presentation responsibilities.
20% Midterm Presentation. All team members must be present.
30% Final Presentation and Deliverables (10-15 slides).
All team members must be present. The slide deck (powerpoint or pdf) must be submitted in
advance and no later than 2:00 PM on March 16th. Code must be submitted on the last day of
class via GitHub. (The HIPAA training certificate is also part of the final presentation grade!)
Getting Started Swift Language Guide
Stanford Biodesign Course Website