Young people shaping healthcare technology research

25 young people came to Great Ormond Street Hospital’s (GOSH) new digital hub DRIVE last week as part of an event to help digital researchers and industry engage with a diverse group of young people and hear how their products could be improved to better meet young people's needs.

The young people attending were all part of Generation R, a network of National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) Young People’s Advisory Groups (YPAGs) from different centres across the UK who get actively involved in the design and delivery of research to ensure it is relevant for children, young people and their families.

DRIVE, which stands for Digital Research, Informatics and Virtual Environments, was launched in October last year with the mission to transform care and the way GOSH provide it through harnessing the latest technologies. During the day the group took part in interactive workshops of robots, virtual and augmented reality, gamification, mobile devices and apps, with DRIVE industry partners NTT Data, Microsoft and Samsung supporting the event. The groups advised the DRIVE team, GOSH researchers and industry partners on how the technologies on display could be better suited to children and young people.

The social robots being demoed included SOTA, who can respond to voice commands and be connected to blood pressure meters and other monitoring devices, and Jibo who is able to remember and build relationships with people. In addition the group were shown the Buru-Navi device which creates the sensation of being pulled by the hand and could help guide patients with speech and hearing difficulties.

11 year old GOSH patient and YPAG member Freddie said, “I liked Jibo, the robot with the moving head, the best. When I tried it I beat the high score! It’s good because you can change its voice to make it sound like someone you know”.

DRIVE is also exploring how gamification can be used to improve patient experience. In one project GOSH has been recreated in a Minecraft world where patients are able to virtually explore the hospital before they visit to help improve their experience. Researchers at GOSH have developed Project Fizzyo, where patients can use their breath to control computer games through sensor technology applied to devices. The project is being used to make physiotherapy more fun for patients with the lung condition cystic fibrosis.

Other technologies on display included an augmented reality portal which can transport the user into a different environment such as an operating theatre, and the Holo-Human, a mixed reality interactive 3D anatomy application viewable via a head set. GOSH staff also demonstrated how a mobile device could be personalised for patients providing easy access to all the information they need to support their clinical care.

GOSH YPAG member Maryam aged 14 said “My favourite was the virtual reality. It could have lots of different uses like helping junior doctors. I thought it was the technology that was the closest to being ready for use.”

The DRIVE team and industry partners found the young people’s feedback to be constructive and insightful and a positive aide to further development. Daiana Bassi, Technical Lead at DRIVE, who is involved in developing the concept of a personalised device said, “Our app looks a bit like current instant messaging apps but the group suggested that we should inform users of when they can expect a reply if not immediate. We will certainly address this in the ongoing development of the device”. Industry partners all agreed that the event provided an invaluable opportunity to directly engage with young people and gained new insights into how technology can support patients and families.

The event was part of GOSH’s national patient public involvement programme focused through Generation R and part of DRIVE’s engagement with patients and families. Together these initiatives help ensure our research and new technologies are relevant and appropriate for children and young people.

GOSH YPAG meet six times a year. Find out more about the group here