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

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

MindTech workshop

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 a digital tool within a mental health care context. We looked at existing sites aimed at evaluating apps including NHS Apps Library, My Health Apps and Mind Apps alongside the World Health Organisation mHealth publication.

After much head scratching we came up with a ton more questions, but also an initial list of evaluation criteria that we are going to test out in a piece of user-centred design work for a digital tool we are building with our Yorkshire Centre for Eating Disorders.  We certainly didn’t come up with all the answers but I learnt that getting people with lots of different points of view in a conversation is a pretty good place to start.

I’ll be sharing the experience and the results as we go and maybe we’ll even come up with a framework that will be useful for others so we don’t all have to reinvent the wheel each time. Any learning you’d like to share? Please do get in touch 🙂


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  1. How is a digital tool to help with an Eating Disorder? Can it stop a person feeling nauseous at the sight of food, or get rid of that damned awful pit of the stomach sickness feeling of the need to get rid of the weight just put in there by eating? People with ED’s go to all lengths to cover up their illness. They hide it, which is a known feature of ED’s. Only face to face human connection can accurately assess the severity of the ED.

    We need to get real. Your love of SoMe is admirable Victoria as I said, but it is not a cure all and people need human interaction, John Bowlby did not spend years researching the human need for attachment for nothing. How can indirect tools replace that innate need?? They cannot, and we are in danger of forgetting the priority of human compassion, no computer could ever replace that. SoMe can be an aid, a tool for support, but never ever forget the need for humanity, connection and compassion.

    • Thank you for your comment. I think you have jumped the gun in making an assumption about the intention of the digital too I mentioned. It is not about replacing human contact but rather about enabling people accessing the service to discreetly self-monitor in-between sessions and then sharing the data with the clinician so their session is more effective when they meet. My view is that digital tools are most useful when they enhance and strengthen the clinical relationship rather than replace it. The main focus for our mHealth initiative is developing tools which enable people to take control- self monitor, self manage and participate in peer support networks. They will de designed collaboratively between people accessing services and clinicians – no point in making them if they aren’t useful and appealing to use. They are definitely not about replacing human contact.


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