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...
Creating a digital citizen blueprint

Creating a digital citizen blueprint

One of the many challenges of using digital technology in health and care services is a lack of interoperability – we’re all using a slightly different lego set and the pieces don’t quite connect together. Every time we want to do a particular task we have to swap over to another lego set and start again. This is a well rehearsed and entrenched challenge in the NHS and my home city of Leeds and the wider region has a new initiative to help connect those lego pieces together through common standards and open source technologies. But what about citizens? In a way we have the opposite challenge. We are not standardised lego pieces and never will be. Each of us has differences in our use of digital technologies – these may be influenced by our attitudes, our aptitude, our access and particular barriers that we may experience. There are some commonalities but there are also particular factors that can be easily overlooked. If we don’t understand and pay attention to those differences then we risk designing and deploying digital technologies that entrench the inverse care law – that is, those who already have the most get more and those who have the least lose out further (you can read an excellent BMJ article from Margaret McCartney on this topic here). In Leeds we have a commitment in the Health and Wellbeing Strategy that people who are the poorest improve their health the fastest. This is easy to say but hard to do. This is where the blueprint comes in. At mHabitat we are helping the NHS and council in...
ABCD meets human-centred design – where’s the common ground?

ABCD meets human-centred design – where’s the common ground?

  Asset based community development (ABCD) – a methodology for the sustainable development of communities based on their strengths and potentials. It involves assessing the resources, skills, and experience available in a community; organizing the community around issues that move its members into action; and then determining and taking appropriate action. This method uses the community’s own assets and resources as the basis for development; it empowers the people of the community by encouraging them to utilise what they already possess.   Human-centred design – an approach to interactive systems development that aims to make systems usable and useful by focusing on the users, their needs and requirements, and by applying human factors/ergonomics, usability knowledge, and techniques. This approach enhances effectiveness and efficiency, improves human well-being, user satisfaction, accessibility and sustainability; and counteracts possible adverse effects of use on human health, safety and performance. ISO 9241-210:2010   The health and wellbeing theme of the 2018 Digital Festival was an opportunity to shine a light on the thriving digital health and care sector in Leeds. But whilst the digital sector is a key asset in our city, Leeds is also known for its thriving community sector and neighbourhood networks. The city’s Health and wellbeing strategy aims to build on both individual and community strengths in order to reduce health inequalities in Leeds. There is an opportunity (and a challenge) to align our digital ambitions with our asset based community aspirations to make Leeds a healthy and caring city for everyone. However…. if we don’t consciously and intentionally take steps to locate digital as an enabler to enhance the assets of...