A few years ago, HMA spotted an opportunity to apply their capability in digital development to challenges in the healthcare sector, particularly for the growing elderly population. As people are living longer, often with one or more long-term conditions, healthcare costs are rising unsustainably and new technology-based digital healthcare solutions could provide one of the answers to support people in self-managing their health and in living more independently.

We started talking to some researchers in the University of Sheffield’s Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH) in the School of Health and Related Research (ScHARR). The university team has significant experience in the development and evaluation of assistive technologies, particularly for older people, people living with dementia and those with long-term conditions.

Together we applied for and won an Innovation Award in Assisted Living Technologies from the University of Sheffield’s EPSRC-funded Knowledge Transfer Account project in 2011, which funded the development of a prototype app for the elderly and people with visual impairments; mHealth Assist. This has now gone on to be the basis of a successful application to the Creative England NHS Digital Fund in 2013, with Tunstall Healthcare, to co-develop the mHealth Assist prototype for vulnerable people, including the elderly and those living with dementia.

Other collaborative projects with CATCH include a mobile healthcare app for management of weight loss for people with obesity and diabetes, underpinned by a strong evidence base, and a prototype multi-platform tablet app to support people living with dementia and their care network, in partnership with the Social Care Institute for Excellence. Key contributions from the University have been their user-centred design approach, including Patient and Public Involvement research, and their ability to review and assess the literature base.

Excitingly, University of Sheffield Enterprise recently recognised the strength and outputs of the HMA-CATCH relationship and together we won the ‘Innovation in Healthcare’ category at their Enterprise, Innovation and Impact awards on 11th September.

In parallel to these projects, we have also worked with a global healthcare company to produce a prototype iPhone app for disease assessment and management by community nurses within an NHS Trust. As a result we are gathering a strong breadth of experience in mobile healthcare design and development and would be very interested to discuss new ideas and projects.