Monday, 24 October 2016

NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative

Why is it so important to consider dignity during technology development?
The development of technology to assist or simplify medical diagnoses, treatment and management can provide the opportunity to greatly improve patient experiences and medical outcomes.  However, addressing only the patient’s clinical needs in isolation misses the opportunity to achieve genuinely effective solutions. For patients, their ability to live with dignity can have a big impact on their health and happiness. Truly effective and enduring technologies should therefore be developed with users, and should consider how, where and when they will use the technology; if a user dislikes using a technology, they are less likely to use it. An example of a technology that D4D is developing in partnership with patients and other collaborators is the Sheffield Support Snood collar for people with neck muscle weakness. The collar has been designed to be more wearable and adaptable than other support collars, and is currently undergoing a clinical evaluation.
“Other, more rigid collars were painful – I couldn’t wear them for too long, I can wear this collar for 8 hours straight  – I wear it at work” -Anonymous patient participant comment in clinical study of new collar design
“This collar gives support but also more freedom of movement – I can wear it to drive”- Anonymous patient participant comment in the clinical study of the new collar design
By developing technologies around users’ wider needs rather than just patients’ clinical needs, and by taking into account the needs of everyone involved in a project from early stages, projects can be designed well, and all partners can benefit. 
·       Patients can experience fewer disruptions and exert greater control over their lives, which is likely to lead to greater satisfaction and adherence to their treatment, and better wellbeing.
·       Healthcare professionals are also users of technologies with their patients, so clinical input into device design can help ensure that technology adoption challenges are anticipated early in the development process and can be addressed in the context of existing practices, training and systems.
·       Technology companies can develop solutions that are likely to be better received by the patients and clinicians using them.
The resulting well-designed technologies are more beneficial to patients and users, so may benefit from patient- and clinical ‘pull’, which helps ensure the solution is widely sought, can help drive faster widespread adoption, and helps the company to establish itself more effectively within the health market place.
For this reason D4D works closely with and values the involvement of patients and carers, clinicians, researchers, designers, charities and industry partners when developing technology solutions. By building such partnerships we can ensure that the solutions that we develop maintain or promote people’s dignity - and by extension their wellbeing - at the same time as addressing their clinical needs.

Partners in the development of the Sheffield Support Snood are the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITRaN) at the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS FT, Barnsley NHS FT and the Motor Neurone Disease Association (MNDA).

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