Monday, March 22, 2010

...give power to patients...

I like to have my cup coffee in the morning. Quite often I switch on my laptop and watch one of TED or PopTech talks enjoying both the drink and inspiring ideas. Some time ago, I watched Jamie Heywood's talk on TED and Haiad Sindi's PopTech talk. Both made me think, once more, about the scope and complexity of healthcare issues we face in nowadays world, also from the interaction design perspective.

Today, Cristiano Storni from IDC gave us a talk on healthcare, technology and the role of participative design. It was a nice supplementary to what girls presented a week before.
Cristiano explained some issues of mobile technology used by patients and briefly explained research he carries out as part of FutureComm. The main focus of that research were patients with diabetes. It was of a particular interest to me, as my mother has type 2 diabetes. Some time ago, her and myself were discussing the functionality and form of those devices she uses every day to monitor glucose level in blood. Here they are:

Glucose meter:

Piece of paper:

My Mom developed this condition only in recent years so her experience cannot be compared to patients who live their whole life with diabetes. If it comes to various health problems among older generation, one may be tempted to assume that certain inconveniences in everyday life are simply part and parcel of aging. That is exactly how a vast number of people, including those experiencing those inconveniences, think. They accept the status quo.
We - designers, who are more aware of opportunities created by technology - shouldn't.

What I liked the most about Cristiano's talk, was emphasis on understanding the patient and involving them in the design process. He introduced the concept of 'reductionism' which means reducing the role of patient in the healthcare system. Cristiano explained, starting from the beginnings of modern healthcare, through its current state, how patients are treated as 'less important'. Of course, it was not a critique of particular doctors - rather a reflection upon mental models underlying the structure of hospitals, clinics, even the design of stethoscope - a doctor gets to know/hear something about your own body that you don't know . He stressed the need for more holistic approach to the patient, who is not only another case of particular illness but a very different subject, with different everyday life, different needs etc. than fellow patients. He also mentioned that 'empowering patient' is a common postulate these days. However, as good as the phrase sounds, this 'empowerment' should be defined and explained. I now slightly simplify what Cristiano said but I hope message conveyed remains the same.

I found the talk inspiring. I am aware that healthcare is one of the most developing domains as companies can foresee future profits from current research. For me advances in healthcare are interesting for more naive reason - if something can help reduce the discomfort of an ill person, help in therapy, give a hope for more 'normal' life, it is more interesting than another amazing game console etc. Simple thinking, I know.

When brainstorming on my FYP, I had an idea of adjusting LiteFoot for therapeutic purposes e.g. to facilitate autistic children therapy. However, the scope of research necessary for such a project seemed too big for me to afford it within our masters. Although I decided to go a different path, this idea is still at the back of my head and I keep an eye on related to this issue research e.g. I've read about interactive floors' application for hearing impaired children with a cochlear implant.

While exploring the subject, I have found other inspiring talks related to healthcare e.g.:
Josh Nesbits on Mobile Healthcare

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