The digital spirit level – four learning points for innovation

The digital spirit level – four learning points for innovation

Achieving equilibrium is a tricky thing when attempting to introduce digital innovation to large organisations. There are many different paces to manage; so many different interests to consider; and so many pot holes to fall down. Just when I think we’ve got one thing in balance I look over my shoulder and something else needs adjusting. If I were to hold a virtual spirit level to our mHealthHabitat programme I’d rarely see a balanced horizontal line. Here are a four learning points from our first six months: Tactics versus strategy We began our mHealthHabitat programme by doing stuff – finding pockets of interest and enthusiasm, supporting bright ideas, learning through experience, making mistakes and doing it differently next time. Doing is very important – it is grounded, it engages people and it generates evidence about what works and what doesn’t. But it is not enough. You also have to create a receptive context as well as alignment with organisational strategy if your innovation is to be sustainable. A beautiful strategy but no doing is another trap.  Doing and strategising need to be kept in constant equilibrium with one informing the other and back again. Keeping both in your line of vision are critical but it’s easy to lose sight of one or the other. Internal versus external Innovation often emerges when diverse perspectives enable us to see a problem differently and find an unexpected solution. Digital innovation requires not only different perspectives but very different skills sets, language and styles of communication. An internal NHS orientation focuses on building awareness and enthusiasm within organisational channels, and engaging with clinicians...
Fancy a bit of ‘show and tell’?

Fancy a bit of ‘show and tell’?

In Leeds we’re busy establishing the right conditions for mHealth (that is digital tools in health services) to flourish in our city – we want to build a community of people up for collaborating together for the purpose of improving experience and outcomes for people accessing health services in the city. We think that one of the ways to build a community is to provide opportunities for people to come together and share learning in a friendly, informal environment away from the workplace. That’s why we’ve organised our first ‘show and tell’ evening at the new Open Data Institute in Leeds. You can book a free place at the event here. We’ve got a brilliant line up for our first event with people bringing patient, carer and developer points of view. And if you’d like to share your own ideas then there’s an ‘open mic’ spot for anyone who would like to pitch in as well (2 minute slot per person). Here’s are a bit more information about our speakers: John Eaglesham: Developing a digital tool for self-management of chronic pain across a whole care pathway in Leeds John became Chief Executive of Advanced Digital Institute in 2009, and has led the company from its origins as a not-for-profit institute to its current position as a thriving, fast-growing, entrepreneurial enterprise. John contributes to several key industry groups in the Assisted Living and Smart Metering sectors and advises a number of public and private sector policy-making bodies. He is also a qualified executive coach who works with a number of FTSE 250 company directors. Kathryn Grace:   Digital tools to support...
Small steps – smoothing the way for #mHealth innovation in the NHS

Small steps – smoothing the way for #mHealth innovation in the NHS

If we’re going to develop digital tools that make a proper difference to people’s lives, then we need fantastic collaboration between app developers, designers, academics, clinicians and people accessing services. This is the magic that will enable great ideas and solutions to emerge. Sound simple? Well we’ve already come unstuck a few times and we’re only at the beginning of our #mHealthHabitat journey – creating an environment in Leeds for mHealth to flourish. It’s increasingly apparent to me that NHS institutions can be daunting bodies to collaborate with for all sorts of different reasons. But we desperately need the creativity and technical know-how of digital specialists, alongside the domain expertise of people who know intimately what it is like to live with a particular diagnosis, and people with clinical knowledge, teaming up together. My aspiration is to make this as easy as possible, and one way to get there is to learn through doing. Once we’ve done it then it will be a little easier the next time. And so on. A big challenge is in understanding all the checks and balances required by the NHS to protect the safety and privacy of people accessing services. It’s a minefield of information governance, regulation and ethics – all undeniably important and all tricky to balance with agile innovation – learning fast and failing quickly. It is possible to get so lost in regulation that innovation becomes a distant dream. Last week I hooked up with MindTech, alongside a group of people bringing diverse expertise, to begin unpicking all the fundamental standards that should be considered when recommending, licencing or developing...
Digital innovation & the #mHealthHabitat – it’s the little things

Digital innovation & the #mHealthHabitat – it’s the little things

Quite some time ago the lovely @amcunningham tweeted me a link to a post about why we are sometimes reluctant to share learning. The basic argument is that as we learn new things they become obvious to use and melt in to our background knowledge. As a result we don’t think it is special or worth sharing. It’s one of those little things that always stuck in the back of my mind. As we’ve been setting up the mHealthHabitat programme I’ve been reminded (and reminded myself) of the importance of capturing learning before we forget. Learning quickly becomes the status quo and when that happens we forget the potential power of sharing it with others. So this post captures a lovely learning point – about how innovation pops up in unexpected places and the importance of creating spaces for the unexpected to happen. It’s another way of celebrating the joy of serendipity which I’ve blogged about before. This week I hooked up with @FranBurrows for a coffee and a chat about Mindfull – ostensibly a chance to find out a bit more about what they do and add it to my list of interesting mHealth initiatives out there in  what sometimes seems to be a very crowded market. But Francis surprised me. His passion and enthusiasm compelled me. The care and cleverness of Mindfull impressed me. The user-centred design and development chimed with our values and orientiation to support the creation of a flourishing #mhealthHabitat in Leeds. And from our conversation exciting possibilities for collaboration emerged. The digital developments that Francis is curious about happen to align with those...
A game of two halves – from digital expert to digital exclusion

A game of two halves – from digital expert to digital exclusion

This week I experienced the extremes of digital expertise and digital exclusion, and it crystallised in my mind the enormous gap between them. From conversations with informatics experts about big data, through to conversations with clinicians about the challenges of mobile phone access for people with chaotic lives, I was struck by how far apart these two groups are and wondered what conversations could bring them closer together – because if digital is going to make a really positive difference to people accessing health services, it has to be solidly grounded in their experiences as well as what they need and what they want. Digital experts To begin with the experts – the launch of the Leeds Health Innovation Lab brought together mobile app developers and big data analysts as well as IT specialists and many others. The lab offers a new open platform with a variety of different data sets against which people can develop and test out digital solutions. I furiously scribbled down words such as openEHR, skunkworks, archetypes and APIs with a note to self to go home and make sense of it all later. We had a small group discussion about how to keep the patient or citizen at the heart of the lab and I was struck by the challenge of bridging such specific expert knowledge to people not already immersed in the technology and vice versa. Digitally excluded In stark contrast, I also spent time with our Assertive Outreach Team which supports the most vulnerable people, who often do not want to have any contact with services at all. People who use the...
Would you like to get involved in #DigiHealthLab?

Would you like to get involved in #DigiHealthLab?

Recently I attended the launch of MindTech – a Healthcare Technology Co-operative (HTC) based in Nottingham which will develop and test digital technologies in mental health care.  There is clearly tons of energy and a momentum building for digital in mental health but the range of apps and other digital tools can be bewildering. Where do you even start? In Leeds we hope to make sense of it all through #DigiHealthLab – a new locally funded initiative that aims make a positive difference to people experiencing mental health difficulties in my home city. I’ve introduced #DigiHealthLab in a previous post which you can find here. Over the next year (and possibly more) #DigiHealthLab will explore the use of digital tools in mental health services.  Our lab will bring people together to test out how digital can play a role in improving experience and outcomes. It might be about procuring existing digital products that are already out there or it might be about developing something from scratch – who knows! Working together collaboratively We do know that co-design will be at the heart of our approach – I’m really excited about the opportunity to collaborate with people accessing services and practitioners from the outset – a proper team effort from start to finish and one which I believe will be critical to how successful we are. Who we’ll be working with We plan to begin by collaborating with small teams made up of people using and working in the Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders, Chronic Fatigue Service and a Community Mental Health Team. But we are keen to know who...