In Case You Missed It: Rise and Design 64

A run down of the last Rise and Design from our Network Manager, Terry McStea

The last minute change of venue didn’t stop the latest Rise and Design from getting 2016 off to a great start. The event, which focused on Design in the Biomedical Sector, was hosted jointly by the Academic Health Science Network, who helped us find some fantastic speakers. Jonathan Peat from QuantuMDx gave a potted history of the business from their roots in South Africa to their current home in the Centre of Newcastle. He also talked about the challenges they’ve faced in taking a large benchtop instrument and turning it into something the size of an iPhone, without losing the ability to detect diseases (such as TB) in a matter of minutes. They’ve managed it against all the odds and are hoping to launch their hand-held laboratory next year where it will make a massive difference to people in developing countries who often have little access to medical facilities.

Having mentioned in his talk the difficulties of getting products into the NHS, the next speaker Karen Winterhalter of Onyx Health had the solution. Lots of solutions, in fact. With a background in nursing, pharmaceutical sales and medical devices, she knows all there is to know about the NHS and how it works, and gave some brilliant advice on making your product appealing to both users and ‘buyers’. As well as keeping the ‘Four Ps’ in mind, it’s important to focus on the needs of those who will be actually using the equipment, not just those who will be authorising the purchase. Lots of equipment lies unused because it’s too fiddly to operate, or the one person who loves using it is off that day, so making something that is simple to use is as important as the clinical benefits.

“There is never a bad product, just bad parents who haven’t nurtured it properly” – Karen Winterhalter, Onyx Health

Getting us thinking right outside the box were EmVigr, who specialise in therapeutic games. Now I know some people, especially teenagers, would say that all games are therapeutic, but there are lots of applications such as physiotherapy and home monitoring where having the latest games console is not so much about how many aliens you can destroy, but how quickly you can regain use of your arm after a stroke. Janet Eyre showed some fascinating videos of people who’ve lost some movement in one of their limbs and how they’ve improved in a matter of weeks by playing games which involve using that limb. What was most interesting was Janet telling us that it’s not enough to use or exercise the affected limbs, you have to want to do it and enjoy it. So doing an exercise for fun is much more effective than doing it because you have to. And that’s why these therapeutic games are so effective – not only are you more likely to do the exercises, they actually work better too.

“It’s not do it or lose it – It’s love it or lose it!” – Janet Eyre, EmVigr

Graham Morgan talked about how they’ve developed a gaming platform to help developers create these games. Unlike most entertainment games which are designed mainly for fun and gameplay, therapeutic games have to precisely mirror the actions of the user, and record their performance to see how they’re improving. So the games engine has to be redesigned to focus on encouraging precise movements, rather than convincing you that you’re a brilliant shot with a plasma rifle.

As usual the fifty or so delegates did a lot of networking afterwards, and a lot of great contacts were made. The team at Baltimore House did a wonderful job of fitting us in at short notice and made us feel very welcome, but it’s back to our usual venue at NDC for next month’s event which will focus on the Future of Web Design. See you there!