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Driven By Results: Design-led approaches to health and wellbeing

 
It was a personal health crisis that gave Jeremy Davenport inspiration to create a new digital tool aimed at renal patients.

 

Jeremy Davenport, Lancaster University.

Finding that he required monthly blood tests as part of managing his chronic kidney disease, he wondered whether the results from the blood tests could be presented in a simpler format.

“The way the data is physically presented on the ward is completely opaque - it’s just a complicated matrix of numbers,” explains Davenport. “As a designer, I knew we could do something that would really improve how that data was visualised, and wanted to create a tool for the clinicians and patients to work together to begin to really help them understand what these important blood tests were all about.”

Davenport, a PhD researcher and designer at Lancaster University, worked with colleagues at the Arts and Humanities Research Council funded Creative Exchange as well as his renal dietician Heather Hill from Kendal Haemodialysis Unit, Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, to develop a graphic prototype displaying phosphate and potassium levels. Both of these minerals are essential for life but normally kept in the correct balance by the kidneys. Too much or too little of either can prove catastrophic to life – hence the need for frequent monitoring.

“To take an idea and turn it into a working prototype, you need to have a team of people with the right mix of skills and positive attitude to find a solution,” he says. “We worked together with our colleagues at the Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, to develop the prototype - and that was very powerful. It’s difficult getting started: you don’t have anything on the shelf, you can’t show people, you just have the sense that we can do things differently and we can visualise the results in a better way.”

“At the moment I don’t usually show the blood test results to patients because the current format is very numerical,” says Hill.

Jeremy's phase 1 prototype for visualising blood test results.

What they created was a new interface for use on a tablet computer, with a graphic and colour-coded display of the results, giving clinicians the ability to explain blood test results to patients in a simple and straightforward manner, using the images as a visual aid.

“My clinicians are brilliant at communicating,” adds Davenport, “but not all nurses and doctors are, and even when they are brilliant communicators, you can still find better tools - better ways of helping them.”

The next step for any prototype is putting it into action – and that’s what Hill is doing, bringing her clinical expertise to the project, after initial positive feedback from renal clinicians at Royal Preston Hospital. Phase 2 will involve Hill working in conjunction with a group of patients and their carers to co-design improvements to the prototype and evaluate it before testing in a clinical setting.

She is confident that the new tool will help to keep more people as healthy and as engaged in their own care as they can be.

“If patients feel empowered and they understand what the blood results mean, it helps them to make appropriate changes to their diet.”

And if that proves a success, the prototype can be rolled out to encompass more detailed results within the blood tests – a prospect that Davenport finds exciting.

“Really, the project is to provide a tool that will help clinicians work with patients, their families and carers ” he says “and we realised we could actually extend the methodology we were using to include more metrics. It’s really important for patients to know what’s going on, and if they’re not happy, to ask questions. It’s really powerful from a patient’s perspective because you become empowered and an active partner, working with your clinicians in managing your own health.”

To find out more about this project and the work of the Creative Exchange Hub, please visit the website

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