Digital specialists rise to healthcare design challenge

Teams of digital design specialists and frontline healthcare professionals are competing for a cash award to invest in a new technology product which will improve patient care.

More than a dozen design agencies have entered the ‘Yorkshire and Humber Digital Health Design Challenge’ and are currently working with healthcare providers to devise prototype solutions to real-life patient care issues identified by NHS trusts.

The Design Challenge, organised through the Connected Healthcare Programme, will culminate in a final ‘hackathon’ day at Barnsley Digital Media Centre (DMC) later this month. The most promising idea presented at this event will be awarded a £5,000 Innovation Voucher from The University of Sheffield’s Centre for Assistive Technology and Connected Healthcare (CATCH).

Dr Peter Cudd, senior researcher at the University of Sheffield, said: “We look forward to awarding the most promising idea at the Yorkshire and Humber Digital Health Design Challenge with a CATCH Innovation Voucher. Our aim is to help the winning team to accelerate their idea and get their innovation a step closer to market.”

Other rewards will be presented to the Design Challenge teams and it is hoped that many of the innovations conceived during the process – which may include mobile apps and telehealth software – will be taken forward and turned into finished digital products which will improve healthcare delivery.

Connected Healthcare project manager Ceri Batchelder said: “The Digital Health Design Challenge has been all about encouraging genuine collaboration between design specialists, healthcare providers and representatives from academic and commercial organisations committed to supporting innovation in healthcare.

“We’ve had a fantastic response to the initiative and there has been a real buzz in the room as people have brought their experience and expertise to the table to ‘co-create’ technological solutions to real-life health service challenges.

“The key is that this hasn’t been a paper exercise and we hope to see several of the ideas initiated through the challenge fully developed in the future. That’s why we’d particularly like to thank the University of Sheffield for their CATCH innovation voucher, which has added an extra competitive edge to the design challenge.”

The NHS trusts involved include Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Doncaster and Bassetlaw Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust. Their design challenges have been drawn from areas of patient care such as maternity, dementia, prevention of pressure ulcers, wayfinding in hospitals and managing long-term conditions.

Service improvement officer at Barnsley Hospital NHS Foundation Trust John Crossland said: “This has been a really exciting experience for the clinicians involved. They’ve found it refreshing to be part of the creative process right from the start – usually they get presented with a finished product and asked ‘does this work for you’ but it can be much too late to make amendments once it’s already been developed.

“Through the Design Challenge, they’ve been able to sit face to face with designers, talk through the issue they face and help to develop the solution in partnership. They are really pleased with the projects they are working on. I also hope they will maintain the relationships they are building through this process, so they can call upon the skills of designers again to tackle service delivery issues in the future.”

Ian Durman of Barnsley-based Frank Creative, one of the design agencies involved, said: “All successful design comes from listening to clients’ needs, working closely with them and understanding their aims. It’s always a collaborative process and that’s why this has been such a great initiative to introduce us to healthcare professionals and get us around a table talking about a real design challenge.”

The Connected Healthcare programme has been initiated and organised by the DMC, through Barnsley Council’s Enterprising Barnsley business support programme, in partnership with the Yorkshire & Humber Academic Health Science Network (AHSN) and Tech North.

The final day of the Yorkshire and Humber Digital Health Design Challenge will take place at the DMC on Wednesday 20th April, when participants will present their projects and judges will present prizes including the CATCH innovation voucher.

Along with the voucher, the winning design team will be matched with one of the University of Sheffield’s health technology experts, who will help them to carry out research studies to support the development of their idea into a commercially attractive proposition for the healthcare sector.

The CATCH support requires the design team to source match-funding alongside the voucher to invest in their product development. Details on the terms and conditions of the CATCH Innovation Voucher can be found here:

A Connected Healthcare ‘Access to Finance’ event with speakers from funding bodies and business support organisations will be held at the DMC on June 10. It is open to all designers and creative and digital agencies – whether or not they have participated in the Design Challenge. To find out more go to

Connected Healthcare Design Challenge - teams at work 2
Teams at work at the connected Healthcare Design Challenge


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