The NHS is in crisis. Every newspaper, news report and documentary is telling us so. We are facing a huge deficit in funding and we are stretching its resources more than ever. For example, the spread of obesity and its associated illnesses in the UK is reaching alarming levels. 24.8% of adults are obese and 61.7% are either overweight or obese. 1 in 3 children are overweight or obese. If we don’t look for new ways in which to tackle this, the NHS faces an unprecedented challenge in order to survive.
We recognise that we are incredibly fortunate to have a free World-leading health service in the UK, but how many of us take it for granted? As a nation, we need to encourage each other to take more personal responsibility for our health thereby reducing the pressure on the NHS. Alongside this, the NHS needs to look for new and innovative ways in which to tackle the problem. Happily, they are doing just that.
The forward-thinker Dr Mahiben Maruthappu has co-founded a programme entitled the ‘NHS Innovation Accelerator’. This is a fellowship programme which provides sponsorship to a group of chosen fellows who have an innovative design idea which will be of benefit to the NHS. They aim to create the conditions and cultural change necessary for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically through the NHS.
In his report “The Cusp of an Innovation Revolution”, Dr Mahiben Maruthappu states: “Technology continues to disrupt the world we live in; Newspapers are digital. Cars are electric. Amazon and iTunes are the department and music stores of today.” But as he says, the revolution in healthcare is only just beginning, and we need to ensure that the NHS embraces it. He cites 3 fundamental technological shifts that modern medicine needs to adopt: 1. Genomics and Personal Medicine, 2. Data and Digital Health 3. Hardware and Wearables.
It is number 3, hardware and wearables, that interests me the most because it is relevant to work that we are doing here at 3Sixty. It is also in the field of ‘Hardware and Wearables’ that we, as individuals, can start to play a part in taking our own responsibility for our health.
But here is the exciting bit, not only can we start improving our personal health, but there are some products emerging on to the market which you just WANT/NEED to have! Here lies the beautiful alignment of great design with a high level of functionality and cleverness. These products are cool, status symbols, must-haves….but they will also help you improve your health. What’s not to like?
Check out the Withings Activité watch, beautiful isn’t it? Want one? Yes, us too. But as stunning as the watch looks, it is also a really clever bit of kit. This is a smartwatch.
The watch will track all your movements and feed them back into your smartphone to view on the dashboard, so you are motivated to reach your health goals. It will also track your sleep patterns to give you a detailed picture of your night. Then, using Activité’s data, the Health Mate app builds an in-depth graph of your sleep patterns and provides key sleep quality indicators. Your watch works in tandem with your phone to develop your personal activity and wellness plan. And all the time it looks amazing!
Next up on the cool list….’Vessyl’. Launching this Autumn, this is a mind-blowing piece of technology. A cup which will analyse and record all its contents so it can tell you exactly what fluids you have taken into your body each day. You can track your liquid calories, optimise your hydration, regulate your caffeine consumption, track your protein/recovery drinks to help you build muscle, time your beverage intake to optimise sleep, and curb sugar. Wow. Naturally, it connects to your iOS or Android device so that all of your nutrient data gets uploaded, and yes, you guessed it….it looks oh so sleek.
So where does 3Sixty fit into all of this? Like the forward-thinkers in the NHS, Jon is also convinced that the relationship between technology and product design is an exciting design challenge of the future. Our award winning Crocodile app (which facilitates the organisation of walking buses to school) is currently being developed to work in tandem with a wearable widget which the kids will wear on their walk to school, in the playground and throughout their active lives. This will track all activity. To encourage participation from the kids, it will introduce gamification to provide an element of peer interaction and competition which kids tend to enjoy! It is work in progress, but if we can design a cool bit of kit that the kids want to wear and encourage them to actively challenge each other, then maybe we can start to work on and reduce that scary statistic of “1 in 3 children are overweight or obese.”
It is a big challenge. But by embracing new technologies and combining them with good design, both us as individuals and the NHS as a whole can begin to fight the big fight…and win.