15 top tips for co-design in digital health

15 top tips for co-design in digital health

The mHabitat team are currently running a Digital Development Lab on behalf of NHS England for a small group of innovators who have developed promising digital innovations for young people’s mental health. We are helping them travel the journey from development through to adoption within the NHS. We recently brought our lovely band of innovators together for a couple of days of shared learning on a number of hot topics. I’m going to be writing a short post on each topic and first up is the fundamental importance of co-design in digital health. Helping us think about this topic was Andy Mayer of Yoomee fame, Matt Edgar of many things including Global Service Jam, and our regular collaborator Mark Brown from Social Spider. Whilst they shared their wisdom I furiously scribbled down a collection of top tips. Follow these simple rules and you won’t go far wrong: Should we even do it? – rather than start with ‘can it be built?’ begin the conversation with ‘should it be built?’ The answer to the first is usually ‘yes’ and the answer to the latter is often ‘no’ What don’t we know? – be honest with yourselves about what you do and don’t know – test your hypotheses and ask questions as you go Find your fans – start with your prospective users from the get-go and create a fan base – a community of people who are really up for collaborating with you It’s all about context – understand what tasks your prospective users are trying to accomplish in their context (not just who they are) so your innovation is...
What are mental health practitioner attitudes towards digital?

What are mental health practitioner attitudes towards digital?

The use of digital technologies such as Internet sites and mobile applications, have received much hype in recent years, both in mental health and the NHS more widely. Opinions on these technologies vary; and those at either ends of the viewpoint spectrum see them as either a panacea to overstretched services or as undermining the primacy of the face-to-face patient/clinician relationship. A recent open access study has endeavored to dig beneath the hype by seeking to understand the opportunities and challenges posed by the use of digital technologies from the perspective of mental health providers. As someone who runs an NHS digital innovation programme I see how practitioners are often overlooked in the development process. This is a big problem because those same practitioners are often critical in influencing the take-up and use of digital technologies by patients. So understanding digital technologies from a practitioner perspective is a welcome addition to research in this field. I’ve written a review of this study which you can read in full on The Mental Elf site here.  The Mental Elf aims to help practitioners find what they need to keep up-to-date with all of the important and reliable mental health research and guidance.  They have a team of mental health experts who post blogs every week day with short and snappy summaries that highlight evidence-based publications relevant to mental health practice in the UK and further afield. You can find out more about The Mental Elf...
From online social networks to codesign in digital health

From online social networks to codesign in digital health

I set this blog up just over four years ago in January 2012 both to record my online ethnographic PhD research and with the hope of having conversations that would help inform my thinking and enable me to share my learning along the way. After four years of working full time, compressing five days into four and doing research on the extra day I’d squeezed out of the week, I finally had my viva on Friday. I passed the assessors’ grilling with four minor corrections and am basking in a profound sense of relief and delight in equal measure. My research was about online social networks and mental health with a heavy focus on the now departed The World of Mentalists blog and ecosystem around it. I have many people to be grateful to for in helping me think about this topic over the last four years. In particular I’d like to thank all my interviewees for sharing their time and expertise (you know who you are) and to everyone who welcomed me into the madosphere. I’d also like to thank Phil, Mark, Sue, James and Kat for many a Skype, phone call, meet up and often conference podium where we shared our thinking about mental health and online social networks with various audiences. During those four years  my interests have developed beyond online social networks to digital technologies in health, with a particular focus on co-design and ethics. I’ve clocked up 133 posts on this blog and recently changed its title  to reflect those broader interests. A few years ago I set up mHabitat which comprises an ever...
Is digital technology a technical or adaptive problem in health?

Is digital technology a technical or adaptive problem in health?

Around three years ago I was invited to speak at a consultant psychiatrists committee meeting about social media and digital technology. I was mid way through my PhD and steeped in online ethnographic research about how people accessing mental health services and practitioners were making use of social networks. I had an inkling that I would have a mixed audience and I knew that not everyone would share my (then*) enthusiasm. As such I spent time preparing a range of compelling examples of digital technologies and social media practices, determined as I was to win over any detractors. I arrived a little early and so listened in to the tail end of an exasperated discussion about the various grinding limitations, obstacles and shortcomings of the in-house electronic patient record (EPR). If my audience’s primary experience of technology in health was such a bad one, then this did not bode well for my presentation – I quickly realised I was going to have to recalibrate. How could I be so naive as to think a conversation about the future potential of digital technologies would be welcomed, when the basics of reliable and effective electronic patient records seemed like a pipe dream? This experience came back to me whilst reading The Digital Doctor – Hope, Hype, and Harm at the Dawn of Medicine’s Computer Age (Wachter, 2015) which is dominated by an expansive analysis of the shortcomings of contemporary electronic patient records. Wachter argues that EPRs have brought many a physician ‘to their knees’ with their clunky, confusing and complex systems (73). It is salutary to note that three years on...
How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? On Wednesday 2 December mHabitat is hosting a social debate in partnership with The Mental Elf and MindTech on the eve of the latter’s Harnessing the Digital Revolution annual symposium. The title of the debate is ‘can research really tell you how to make a good mental health app?’. We’ll be using the hashtag  #mindtech15 as well as streaming the discussion live on Periscope. The debate is all about keeping the digital revolution open, social and exploratory – challenging ourselves to think critically about digital in mental health through public deliberation. We hope it will be stimulating, fun and informal. I have previously blogged about my lack of love for the traditional conference format, often characterised by experts on the podium transmitting knowledge to a largely passive audience. Not only do such events miss a trick in harnessing audience expertise within the audience but also often fail to be engaging. I’m a big advocate of participant led events, as exemplified by the People Driven Digital which a few of us organised earlier this year – we put a lot of effort into making this as sociable an event as possible. The symposium itself is a mix of presentations, debates, a rapid fire technology showcase, an exhibition and lots of opportunity for networking. You can book here – I recommend it. Theories of learning styles are contested, but if we recognise that people learn differently, then it makes sense to organise an event in ways which vary pace and style to keep people engaged.  So it’s been fabulous to collaborate with Mindtech and...
Digital technologies in mental health – opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits

Digital technologies in mental health – opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits

In a few weeks time I am speaking at the 2nd Summit New Technologies and Mental Health: Future Possibilities in Barcelona. In my presentation I will share opportunities, challenges and unexpected benefits arising from the first year and a half of our mHabitat programme – supporting digital innovation in the sphere of mental health and beyond. People first – technology second The first insight I will share is a simple one – the fundamental importance of putting people first and technology second. It seems obvious that people should be at the heart of any innovation in mental health, but we have learnt that it is often missed. It is too easy for the allure of new technology to outshine more mundane but crucial considerations of understanding what people actually want and need. Why is it so important to put people first? Creating or licensing a digital technology will only add real value if we deeply understand the preferences, motivations and capabilities of the people they are intended for. Fortunately there are established methodologies, such as user centred design and service design for co-designing digital technologies that add value to a user’s journey through a service. In the health service there is the added dimension that digital technologies need to be underpinned by sound theories of behaviour change and/or clinical guidance as well as meeting regulatory requirements. Generating evidence so we know what works and what doesn’t is also an important consideration. Putting people at the centre is the first step to developing digital technologies that will really make a difference to people’s lives. Putting people first means recognising that...