This project takes a user-centred approach through needs assessment, co-design, interviews, case studies and usability testing to design and develop a product range to help children with arthritis lead more active and independent lives.
Funded by Sheffield Hallam University, Lab4Living, NIHR CYP-MedTech and Sheffield Children’s Hospital
SHU supervisors: Dr Joe Langley and Nick Dulake External supervisors: Nathaniel Mills (NIHR CYP-MedTech) and Dan Hawley (Sheffield Children’s Hospital NHS Foundation Trust)
The problem Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA) is one of the most common causes of physical disability in childhood (National Rheumatoid Arthritis Society, 2018) with between 1,000 and 1,500 children developing it each year in the UK (Silman & Hocheberg, 2002). Despite the commonality of the issue, arthritis in children is often trivialised with many products targeted towards older users highlighting an ignored cohort and the potential for new products.
The approach This research uses co-design, interviews, surveys through support groups, case studies, sketching, form modelling and prototyping to explore technologies and products to support children with arthritis and their families to enable them to live more active and independent lives. Participatory research methods involving children, families and clinicians has led to a range of prototypes being developed.
Paediatric conditions were focused on as children have an entirely different outlook on the world from adults (Cherry, 2018). For younger children, they often have an innate confidence in themselves, unconcerned about how things they do are perceived whilst their creativity is boundless as their imaginations aren’t curbed by rules of logic (Frost, 2016). As a result, this makes them an ideal target market due to their adaptability. For older children, whilst they are more concerned with their appearance and how their actions are perceived, their key driver is increasing their independence and exploring their world, which diseases like arthritis can limit. By encouraging certain behaviours such as self-management of a condition from a young age, it gets them adapted and into the routine. In adulthood then, these early experiences will give them confidence in managing their condition allowing them to live independent lives and reduce potential ‘crisis’ scenarios.
JIA was chosen as the condition as it is not an uncommon problem yet it is treated as such, with many children feeling stigmatised and isolated. The fact that it is a ‘hidden disease’ can lead to much disbelief with an often long wait to diagnosis- “I was in a lot of pain and started to get bullied as I was different” according to one child participant. With the formation of a new charity called Versus Arthritis in September 2018 following the merger of Arthritis Care and Arthritis Research UK, there was a refreshed campaign for recognition as the condition “steals from millions of people every day” (Versus Arthritis, 2018), the currency of the issue and the extent of the ignored cohort was emphasised, leading to the decision to focus on this area.
Users were at the heart of this project with initial research looking into the needs of the different stakeholders involved: the child, the parent/ carer, the healthcare professional and the teacher. Through this, it became clear how varied the key priorities were within the group:
The child wanted “something to help with pain so that [they wouldn’t] have to stop doing fun things”.
The parent/ carer, in addition to aids to distract from pain, also wanted something to help keep better track of the condition.
The healthcare professional wanted something to help motivate physiotherapy.
The teacher needed something to help with disbelief in the classroom.
Initial thoughts about briefs had centred on improving assessment, helping with everyday activities and reducing stigma. The priorities put forward by the stakeholders slightly altered the direction, driving the decision to develop four interventions simultaneously, with each targeting a key need put forward by each group:
Helping with pain management
A way to keep track more easily
Help with communication in the classroom
Through the duration of the six month timeframe, each brief was developed by Ursula to prototype level. Workshops with children who have arthritis and their families were held at the research, initial design, further development and final prototype stage in order to ensure the products were fulfilling a need as well as to tease out issues and potential improvements. Technical requirements were tested and tweaked to ensure both ease of use and safety whilst the forms were explored through physical models and sketching, taking into account both ergonomic factors of gripping difficulty and aesthetic drivers of wanting something discreet but that also validated their condition.
Outcomes Four prototypes were developed as part of the final year project:
Heat- FIX: A wearable device that helps to distract the brain from the joint pain during a flare. It can be wrapped around any joint and fastened securely in place.
“The warmth of it is really soothing- I love the degree of control.”
(child participant with arthritis)
Active- FLEX: A motivational physio tool that has an additional link to a character on the app helping to gamify and incentivise an otherwise “boring” chore. The colours are bright and energising with the gripping texture ensuring ease of use.
“I hate nagging her to do her stretches- this way she’d want to do them.”
(parent workshop participant)
Class- COMM: A wearable to help facilitate communication between the pupil and teacher when the child is in pain/ needs help. With a form similar to a Fitbit, the wearable is discreet, helping to reduce feelings of embarassment.
“Teachers have forced her to do PE as they weren’t aware – this would help with disbelief.”
JA- CONNECT: An app with different versions for parents and children to both help keep better track of the condition as well as to create a network so that parents and children don’t feel so isolated in their experience.
“The first thing that clinicians ask when I mention a symptom is ‘do you have a photo?’. This would really help in tracking changes.”
“Being able to pass tips onto other kids would be so great.”
“The University, though the Lab4Living research group, already have a strong relationship with both Sheffield Children’s Hospital and NIHR CYP-MedTech, collaborating on a range of projects with both. This enabled Ursula to benefit from research input to her undergraduate work at organisational, operational and technical levels of her project. Subsequently, following graduation, Lab4Living has provided a ready route to enable Ursula to continue her project through to implementation.
(Dr Joe Langley, Lab4Living)
The future This project has been awarded funding from NIHR CYP MedTech through Sheffield Children’s Hospital, to further develop the product outcomes, which started in October 2019. The development will focus on improving the technology whilst also looking at the connectivity aspect of the products with the app platform. The first goal is to carry out a pilot study, the results of which can then drive further improvements, with the hope being that these products will ultimately go to market.
The Starworks Network is a young people’s prosthetics research collaboration. It has taken a co-design approach to bringing children and families together with experts from healthcare, academia and industry, to creatively explore and address the unmet needs in this area.
Funded by The UK Department of Health / National Institute for Health Research (NIHR)
Project led by NIHR Devices for Dignity MedTech Co-operative, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals.
The Lab4Living team was led by Joe Langley and Gemma Wheeler.
There are an estimated 2000 children in the UK living with a form of limb loss and many will use upper and/or lower limb prosthetics from an early age. However, product and service provision for these children is usually based on scaled-down versions of adult prosthetics, which often do not meet their unique functional, social and emotional needs.
In 2016, the Department of Health released £750,000 to build a network of clinicians, academics, industry experts, and crucially, children and families, to support research in this area. It aimed to ensure a balance between ‘clinical pull’ and ‘technical push’ in translating much-needed innovation in child prosthetics into everyday use.
Our regular collaborators, Devices for Dignity (Sheffield Teaching Hospitals) invited Lab4Living to bring a co-design approach to the building and maintenance of this network. We have played a key role in the design, facilitation and reporting of each stage of the project, ensuring that children’s voices were central throughout.
“The Child Prosthetics Research Collaboration led to inventions and optimizations that reflected what children and families need. The experts and academics who develop prosthetics would probably never have heard from families and children how a poor-fitting or unattractive limb can limit a child at home, in the classroom and in the playground.”
(Gary Hickey, INVOLVE)
Needs assessment We engaged children and families across the country through workshops, phone calls and postal activity packs tailored to a range of ages.
Sandpit events A series of four one-day workshops in Salford, Bristol, London and Sheffield, brought the key stakeholders together to creatively and collaboratively explore key challenge areas emerging from the initial needs assessment. We designed a set of bespoke tools to support activities in problem definition, inspiration, ideation, prioritisation, development, pitching and network-building.
We have continued to provide design support to these projects and the Network as a whole, and are pleased to announce that it has been awarded follow-on funding from the NIHR to continue supporting research and innovation in this important area. Starworks 2 has begun and will further engage with all stakeholders to bring new innovations and technologies to children with limb difficulties.
“This, to my knowledge […] is the first of its type in scale and content and hopefully will produce some exciting, useful and relevant developments […] for our paediatric clients, who have sadly, by nature of their relatively small numbers and even smaller voices, been largely ignored by industry and the profession. Empowering the client group that you are trying to help and allowing them a voice in what is being developed for them is surely the best way forward.”
Rose Morris, Clinician, in ‘Attracting innovation in child prosthetics’, The Clinical Services Journal, February 2018, p56-58.
Devices for Dignity MedTech Co-Operative has announced the funding of 10 Proof of Concept projects, addressing a variety of needs for children using prosthetics.
Starworks has raised awareness of co-production methods through coverage in a Nature special issue on Co-production of research, published on 3rd October 2018 and in an upcoming guidance document by Involve (www.invo.org.uk).
A recent article in a clinical journal raises awareness and demonstrates recognition of the potential of the Starworks research collaboration. Raj Purewal, business development and partnerships director at NHS innovation specialist, Trustech, discusses how the project aims to increase progress in innovation in child prosthetics even further in an article for The Clinical Services Journal, February 2018, p56-58.
The Starworks project has supported the formation of collaborations between researchers across the country through Industry Forum events.
Related research on Sheffield Hallam University’s Research Archive
The Design to Care Programme seeks to rethink how palliative and end of life care can be provided equitably, efficiently and sustainably for future generations. The Life Café Kit is a result of the programme, and is designed to promote and support conversations about what individuals find meaningful in life and in care. For more information visit www.lifecafe.org.uk
Funded by Marie Curie Partnered with University of Cambridge
Team: Helen Fisher, Claire Craig, Paul Chamberlain
Drawing on long-established ethical principles, the UK General Medical Council articulates good end of life care as that which ‘helps patients with life-limiting conditions to live as well as possible until they die and to die with dignity’ (GMC 2009 p.3).
The last decade has witnessed a demographic change on unprecedented scale.
People are living longer and with more complex, long term conditions such as cancer and dementia. Our palliative and end of life care services will be required to meet the needs of our ageing population under increasing pressure.
The Life Café is one of the outputs of the Design to Care programme which seeks to rethink how palliative and end of life care can be provided equitably, efficiently and sustainably for future generations.
The community engagement aspect of the Design to Care programme focuses on understanding what is important to different individuals in life, in care, and towards end of life. A methodology has been developed by researchers at Sheffield Hallam University’s Lab4Living, to enable research to be gathered in an informal, comfortable manner within existing community groups and familiar environments. This has been named the Life Café.
“This has made an incredible difference to me today to share these things and listen to you all.”
Life Café Participant
“Good care is ‘talking, listening, communicating, trusting, consistency, choice and time.”
Life Café Participant
Taking the method of ‘exhibition in a box’, a form of object elicitation developed by Chamberlain and Craig (2013) as the starting point, this study curated a series of creative activities, to scaffold thinking and to prompt conversation. The Life Café is comprised of a variety of critical artefacts, activities and resources, co-developed with community members, that have been used to gather stories, experiences and ideas to support the design phase of the project.
Our iterative methodology of using resources and artefacts, analysing data, generating themes, then modifying the resources has been a form of behind-the-scenes co-design. Participants have shaped the contents of the Life Cafe and enabled others to talk about sensitive topics more easily, without really realizing. This iterative co-design process has occurred through every element, activity and resource included in the Life Café Kit, even the graphic design and the packaging design.
11 Life Cafés facilitated 141 participants
In the first phase of the Design to Care Programme, 11 Life Cafés have been facilitated with a total of 141 participants (from groups including chaplains, faith groups, coffee morning socials and mixed community groups), using convenience sampling.
The Life Café Kit
Life Cafés were continued to develop a kit for independent facilitation. The life café has since been independently facilitated within 2 community groups, a care home and a hospice. The feedback from this will be consolidated and incorporated into the final version of the Kit. We have increasing interest in the Life Café Kit, not only for community groups but for use in schools, carer groups, staff training etc. to open the conversation up and bring awareness to organisations.
The Life Café as a method of eliciting the experiences of individuals in the context of meaning and care has been very successful. Particularly notable was its ability to enable community groups through this process to identify strength and mobilise knowledge and action. This sits well in the context of building compassionate communities.
The Life Café has elicited insights into how individuals conceptualise and describe good care, and a recognition of the pressure points in relation to delivery. The research offers glimpses of what better care might and could look like in the future. Future research will continue to utilise this method with other groups (health and social care staff, trusts and CCGs, carer groups, community groups etc.) to continue to build understanding in order to inform the redesign of end of life care provision. For more information or to order a Life Cafe Kit please visit www.lifecafe.org.uk.
Related research on Sheffield Hallam University’s Research Archive
Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a highly complex progressive neurodegenerative disease. Individuals experience PD in a wide variety of ways, leading to difficulty in diagnosis, acceptance and on-going management. Service provision is complex and varied depending on provider. This project utilised a participatory design methodology to identify patient and provider needs for PD services in the South West Peninsula. Then used co-design to develop tools, resources and service structures to meet these.
Funded by : Bial Pharmaceuticals University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Foundation Trust Sheffield Hallam University
Partners: University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Foundation Trust Sheffield Hallam University Livewell Southwest People living with Parkinson’s Disease and their family’s/carers Parkinson’s UK
Project team: Joe Langley Rebecca Partridge
Parkinson’s occurs when a small group of nerve cells in the brain no longer produce enough dopamine. This is a chemical that transmits messages from the brain to other parts of the body, enabling people to perform smooth, coordinated movements. Insufficient dopamine messes up these transmissions. Although typically associated with tremors, muscle stiffness and slower movements, it is also associated with a wide range of other symptoms including nightmares and night sweats, hallucinations, reduced facial expressions, depression, loss of taste and smell and ‘freezing’ (where someone suffers a temporary lack of ability to take a step, speak or communicate).
This highly individualised experience leads to difficulty in diagnosis, acceptance and on-going management. There is currently no cure for Parkinson’s so symptoms are managed through a combination of drugs and self-management (exercise, sleep hygiene etc.). The first year following diagnosis is involves many different healthcare professionals such as; Speech and Language Therapists, Dietitian’s, Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists, a Parkinson’s Nurse Specialist and Neurology Specialist Consultants.
The provision of Parkinson’s services is complex and varied depending on provider. Services in the South West Peninsula cover acute and community settings, cross multiple regional and budgetary boundaries, cover a large geographical and rural area and have staffing pressures from unfulfilled roles, long term sick leave and increased patient numbers.
People living with Parkinson’s and their families and carers
Parkinson’s Specialist Nurses
Community care teams
Parkinson’s UK Charity representative
To improve the patient and staff experiences of using and delivering services in the South West Peninsula, this project utilised a participatory design methodology to identify patient and provider needs and generate a series of solutions to these needs. A wide range of design research techniques were implemented that included; Lego® Serious Play®, Persona creation, Service Mapping and Prototyping.
Five full day workshops explored
What are staff and user experiences?
How is the service currently run?
What could be different?
Prototyping and Testing
As a result of these workshops, five concepts are currently in development: A Parkinson’s Patient passport; New service and local information; a media campaign; a card deck to support therapeutic sessions; a self-management support and general information package. In addition further funding has been secured through The health Foundation to progress the development of a Home based Parkinson’s care service.
An evaluation is currently being undertaken with participants from both sites to explore whether there was a difference in the experience and impact between wards engaged in the creative practice and co- design of the critical artefacts in comparison to the ward that was not. It will reflect on how the artefacts had been utilised and any possible strategies that the wards have found useful in relation to identifying and implementing positive deviant behaviours