NIHR D4D and CLAHRC YH Health Design Hackathon

17/11/2014 CLAHRC YH on Sheffield Live 

A TEAM of clinicians, medical engineers, designers and patient representatives came up with new innovative concepts to solve patients’ needs in an eight-hour health design hack.

Both Sheffield Universities, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, the nationally acclaimed Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative and National Institute for Health CLAHRC YH joined forces, together with Kyoto Design Lab, the University of Porto, patients, industry representatives and an international contingent of designers, engineers and software programmers at the fifth annual Business Innovation Network conference on Tuesday 11 November.

In all about 80 people came together and worked across six teams to propose alternative scenarios where it was felt that patient needs are currently inadequately served in some way. Some of these projects included:

  1. a project to create a better system for lifting patients safely and more comfortably who are unable to support their own weight
  2. a sip straw for patients who have difficulty in swallowing from a beaker or cup following a stroke, or suffer with Parkinson’s Disease, motor neurone disease, or multiple sclerosis.
  3. a re-design of a posteria walker, mobility support device, also know as a rollator, to give all-terrain access
  4. an exploration of potential health related applications of an innovative piece of technology called the Myo armband that can sense arm and finger movements, translating these movements to control connected technology.

The process began with each team creating a shared understanding of the lived experience from the perspective of patients, adding clinical knowledge to this from the clinicians before engaging the creative input of designers and technical know-how of the engineers and programmers to propose and prototype alternative scenarios.

The teams had eight hours to be creative and come up with products that medical technology developers could take away and develop into a something usable by the NHS.

The day ended with each team presenting the co-produced ideas back to the whole hackathon.  There were a range of proposals from the product teams; from redesigned hoist slings designed with patient dignity in mind, a functioning prototype for assisting with swallowing and a rather rough and ready rollator demonstrator model.

The MyoArmband teams really went to town with proposals for drumming back to health, a speech device to allow people with limited communication to add emphasis to their conversations in real time through simple gestures, self management systems and a system to support normal movements as muscle strength diminishes over time.

In summing up, the impact of the patient participants could not be underestimated, everyone recognised the invaluable contribution all these talented people had made and that the day would not have been as successful had they not been involved.

The next step is for the teams to continue to evolve the ideas started in the Hack and look to secure funding for further development to allow these innovative ideas to have a positive impact on the health of the people of Sheffield and beyond.

Dr Angel Jimenez-Aranda, Project Manager for the Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Cooperative, said: “This was a great opportunity to think laterally and innovatively about new ways to create practical, dignified healthcare products which could improve patient care.

“We’re weren’t expecting definitive answers, but by stepping outside of their normal working environment clinicians, medical engineers, patients and designers were able to brainstorm ideas which ultimately will provide a concept that we can formalise into an ongoing project and really make fly.”

Daniel Wolstenholme from the National Institute for Health CLAHRC YH, said “ this Design4Health Hackathon builds on a track record of delivering innovative events in partnership with the CLAHRC, Sheffield Hallam University and Devices for Dignity. The clinical links with the teaching hospitals allowed us to get access to clinical staff and more importantly patients without whom the event would not have been possible.”

Joe Langley, Design Engineer from Lab4Living at Sheffield Hallam University said ‘opportunities like these are great for the designers, giving them fantastic, contextually relevant insight into real patient needs and clinical challenges. The shared learning and new knowledge that is created sparks so many ideas, catalysing fresh thinking and innovation far beyond the immediate focus of each team.”