by Claudia Thompson

Healthcare Apps: Bridging the gap between idea and build

An unfortunate truth is that while digital can enhance and improve healthcare practice, there are currently many disconnects between ideas and the means to make them a reality.

However, events like the one we attended last month are actively trying to improve this.

The 2 day digital design hackathon we were invited to attend in Barnsley brought together technology innovators, healthcare professionals and patients to co-create new products for the NHS and wider healthcare sector.

The event organised by Connect & Create, Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network, Sheffield University hospitals, and CATCH gave away prizes at the end of the challenge to the most promising ideas.

Our guys Jenni Byers, Oliver Foggin, and Becky McCartney teamed with multiple sclerosis charity Shift.ms, along with consultant neurologist David Paling and specialist nurse Daisy Cam from Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The idea based on David Paling’s research was an app that helps MS patients monitor fatigue and manage their energy, and led us to winning the top offering of a 5K match-funded innovation voucher.

Understanding the process

Our app was a team effort, and a contribution to our winning is that we had a consultant who was passionate about the idea. He knew what he wanted the app to achieve for his patients, but alike many, didn’t have the digital resource prior to the event.

This hackathon allowed for each area of expertise to connect, with other experts on hand that are necessary in the concept process but aren’t always acknowledged as important to have at the early stage, such as an IP (intellectual property) expert who was available on the day.

While connecting consultants and their research with digital experts and their abilities is fundamental, protecting and idea is equally as important, and something that has proved to be a big issue so far from the NHS side, and it’s easy to understand why.

If IP hasn’t been discussed in the beginning, it can lead to further trouble down the line, as confusion can set in about who actually owns the idea. Having an IP (intellectual property) agreement established from the get-go is an important but overlooked essential that events like these can cater for.

Funding

A general understanding when doing a hackathon within the healthcare sector is that people in the NHS have access to certain funding pots and people within industry have access to others. Addressing where the money is going to come from as a part of a hackathon challenge is vital.

Having an actual monetary award at this challenge was great as this is what gets a project moving, although further funding is needed to make the project a reality.

It’s not a case of providing the actual full funding, or knowing exactly where that will come from, but being advised on the resources available, who to speak to, and having the connections made is essential, and something that is typically a hazy part of the process currently.

Our team understood from the start that full funding wouldn’t be provided from us as a company, and this is likely where other ideas fall down (and understandably if so), because finding funding is essential, but it’s not connected to, or as accessible as it could be.

Reality of cost

The actual cost of an app like this, that is going to work in the way that is needed for optimal user adoption is often overlooked. It can be a misconception that a technical app is a venture with light cost, however the reality is that an app such as this can cost 50-100K.

The great thing about winning a 5K match funded voucher is it allows us to establish an MVP (minimal viable product), which is essential in any process, and something we do through one of our ‘innovation workshops’. This provides a type of blueprint for a project, providing something that can be shown at further investment opportunities as a solid and clear layout of a project.

If there is to be a more defined process of turning healthcare concepts into something, the likes of the AHSN also need to step in for the next stages of funding, and support getting these products forward into clinical trials.

Better connection is happening, we’ve witnessed it at the hackathon in Barnsley, but we look forward to there being a more functional process in the future, and are committed to our involvement of improving this as we connect more with those in healthcare.

Digital and medical research together can do great things, and piecing the important components together to turn ideas into valuable tools has the potential to help a lot of people.

Have a digital idea? Drop us an email to learn more about our workshops!

Subscribe to our mailing list

* indicates required