100% digital – shining a light on digital health and care in Leeds #LDF19

100% digital – shining a light on digital health and care in Leeds #LDF19

Each spring, the Leeds Digital Festival corrals the digital community to put on its Sunday best and parade our northern finery to the world. With a thriving digital health and care sector in the city, we are super proud at mHabitat to curate this theme of the festival on behalf of the NHS and local authority, in partnership with a whole range of local and national bodies. You can find our programme of events here. Digital and the inverse care law With technology woven throughout the NHS Long Term Plan there has never been more of a focus on the role of digital in enabling transformation of health and care services. However, in stark contrast, barely a day goes by where we don’t encounter the most basic barriers to uptake of  technology, not only in services but in people’s everyday lives. Whether it be community nurses whose laptops either take forever to boot up, or young people in excluded communities confused about how to navigate the web, we need to think critically about both infrastructure and human factors. If we fail to do this then we run the risk of exacerbating the inverse care law and worsening health inequalities. One way to understand how we balance the promise of digital technology with the realities of health and care services, and the lived experience of patients and citizens, is to bring people together from a wide range of disciplines to deliberate. Our events endeavour to blend a variety of perspectives and expertise – academics with clinicians; citizens with philosophers, ethicists with industry – and so on. Our 100% Digital Leeds...
Standards and principles for evaluating mental health apps

Standards and principles for evaluating mental health apps

This post was originally published on the National Elf Service blog. You can find it here. A new ‘Insights’ piece has just been published in World Psychiatry (the Official Journal of the World Psychiatric Association) by John Torous et al, in which they seek to propose a consensus for a set of standards and principles for the evaluation of mental health apps (Torous et al, 2019). So why is this consensus piece so timely? As the authors note, whilst there are over 10,000 mental health apps available to download, there are few resources available to help users (people accessing mental health services, practitioners and organisations) evaluate the quality and suitability of these tools and services. It is currently not a straightforward task for users to appraise mental health apps; and how can practitioners confidently recommend digital mental health tools to the people they support, without clarity on minimum standards? It is comparatively easy to design and develop a mobile app, hence their proliferation in the marketplace, but creating a tool that is safeand efficacious is a more significant challenge. Recommendations Through deliberation with experts in the field, the authors have identified four key topic areas where they argue minimum standards should be articulated and met. Their recommendations are summarised below: 1. Data safety and privacy Data storage, use and sharing practices should fulfil healthcare standards for handling patient health information dataStandards must be transparent to the userThe end user must have the option to “opt out” of sharing their informationAny language regarding data storage, use and sharing must be written at a maximum of a 6th grade (year 7 in England) reading levelTechnical security reviews and data audits are necessary to guarantee that apps follow the standards they set out...
On MedTech, digital and unintended consequences

On MedTech, digital and unintended consequences

I was recently invited to give a keynote speech at the launch of Grow MedTech –  a major UK programme providing specialist support for innovation in medical technologies, involving a consortium of six universities across the Leeds and Sheffield city regions. With the programme’s interest in convergence between MedTech and digital technologies, I shared some thoughts about the dangers of unintended consequences along with the role of human-centred design in creating a future we want for ourselves as individuals, our families, communities and wider society. Below is a summary of my talk. I began by posing a few questions: Who would have thought that one of the consequences of the phenomenal global success of AirBnB would be protests related to lack of affordable accommodation and the rise in homelessness? How many of us would be surprised to know that the introduction of driverless cars in Leeds is projected to result in a 50% increase in car travel by 2050 along with associated reduction in walking and cycling? And if robots are the answer to the social care crisis for older people – what is the question? And what might be a different or even better question? I asked these questions not to be provocative, but to illustrate that we cannot easily anticipate the consequences of technology innovation. As we have seen in the case of data driven algorithms, technologies have all sorts of social norms, biases, beliefs, values, assumptions and consequences baked into them. By way of a health related example, this recent article in the New Yorker describes how American physicians in one Massachusetts hospital are hiring India-based...
What is the case for more women in health tech?

What is the case for more women in health tech?

Recently I was delighted to give a presentation at a Leeds Women in Health Tech breakfast event hosted by Health and Wellbeing Board chair, Councillor Rebecca Charlwood and Director of City Development, Martin Farrington. This forms part of a regular breakfast series in which senior council leaders and councillors bring together experts on a topic of importance to the city. I started by noting that, with a background in humanities and social sciences, I am an accidental woman in technology. My working life started in homeless charities followed by a qualification in social work. Hardly an obvious route to health technology. It was through my PhD research on the theme of mental health and online social networks that my interest in digital technology began to develop. Whilst we need more women with technology skills, the field of digital also needs people with a more diverse skill set than simply coding. This post from Rachel Coldicutt at Dot Everyone neatly makes the case for arts and social scientists in tech: “The arts and social sciences must become essential voices both in the technology industry and in the predictions that guide investment and entrepreneurship. Knowing what to do with tech must become at least as valuable a skill as knowing how to make it” It is for this reason that I am not apologetic about my non-tech background – I see it as an asset rather than a liability. In my talk, I recalled how in the early days of mHabitat I was asked to speak at an almost exclusively male event which, as someone new to the tech scene, took...
Mental distress is on the increase for young people – what part has digital technology got to play?

Mental distress is on the increase for young people – what part has digital technology got to play?

Children and young people’s mental health has been centre stage in the media this week, in the light of a recent survey published by NHS Digital. The report shows a rise in mental health difficulties, coupled with increased waits for contact with mental health specialists. A perfect storm of rising demand and reduced capacity in the system. The report precipitated a flurry of reports in the media calling for the Government to put more resources into young people’s mental health services. A Guardian article identified social media, along with other factors, as potential sources of pressure on young people’s mental health. Another focused on the role of mobile apps such as Calm Harm, and the online counselling service Kooth, in helping young people cope with distress. So what is the role of digital technology in young people’s mental health? Should we be increasing the availability of online services? And are social media good or bad for children? In a recent post I summarised findings from a representative survey of teens age 13-17 entitled Social Media, Social Life: Teens Reveal their Experiences (Common Sense Media 2018) which found that despite adult assumptions, most teens report social media have a positive effect in their lives, such as making them feel less lonely. And whilst vulnerable teens are more likely to report negative effects of social media (such as bullying) they are nevertheless more likely to report positive benefits, such as feeling less lonely and depressed. Whilst this is an American study, it has parallels to findings from the UK. Social media appear to have a heightened effect (both good and bad)...