#DigiHealthLab… first steps in creating an mHealth habitat

#DigiHealthLab… first steps in creating an mHealth habitat


Our preparations might not have been particularly noticed by anyone else, but the #DigiHealthLab launch event last Thursday was the result of many months of planning and preparation. It’s our first tentative step in creating a self-sustaining habitat for digital innovation in Leeds.

What is #DigiHealthLab?

#DigiHealthLab is part of a habitat we are developing which will enable people accessing health services and practitioners to collaborate with developers, designers and entrepreneurs. It starts with a problem – a question or an idea – and ends with a digital solution that we either licence or we develop locally. I’ve previously blogged about #DigiHealthLab here.

Hacking our way there

Our intention is to find a way of creating the right habitat for digital solutions to flourish in the city. A participatory day with a variety of interested clinical services seemed like a good place to start. We modelled our event on a hack day and you can find a great description of a hack by @amcunningham who ran a successful one in Cardiff this weekend.

Key ingredients for our day were:

  • A lovely space  (at Shine)
  • Yummy food and refreshments
  • An expert facilitator
  • Dedicated people on hand to help out
  • Six enthusiastic clinical services (people accessing the service and practitioners)
  • Designer, developers, academics and service improvement specialists
  • A graphic recorder to capture the day in pictures
  • Tweeting and blogging to share the day in real time and bring other voices in to the room (you can find a storify of the tweets here)
  • A judging panel with commercial nous and lived experience.

Where did we get to?

On the plus side we got loads of great conversations and connections, ideas for grant applications and strong plans for digital services that will go forward into projects. On the learning side we needed more developers in the room and the length of the day worked perfectly for some but for others it was a bit too long – more flexibility to drop in and out would have worked well. We didn’t actually hack the solutions as you would usually do in a hack day – the focus was more on refining the vision, working out what would and would not work, consolidating relationships and working out the practicalities.

What next?

Our next step is to develop more detailed project plans along with robust criteria against which to assess any potential digital solutions (including information governance  and so on) and then to get the right expertise to progress. This is only part of the mHealth habitat I’d like us to develop in Leeds – I hope that learning or show-and-tell meet ups might play a part as well as regular hack days and spaces for digital inclusion. But there are no doubt many other ways of helping it flourish. If you have expertise you’d be up for contributing, or if you can offer a part of the habitat we haven’t even thought of, then please do get in touch. The more connections we make the stronger and dynamic our mHealth habitat will be.

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