Clinicians, patients, academics and designers from across Europe have convened at Sheffield Hallam University to highlight the crucial role design plays in healthcare innovation.
Design4Health 2013, a week-long series of events hosted by Sheffield Hallam’s Lab4Living created a forum to discuss and develop designs and ideas to improve patient care.
The week began with a high-pressure 24-hour design challenge, which pitted teams against each other to create a device or intervention which would assist in the transition of one of the case conditions, Motor Neurone Disease (MND) and Cystic Fibrosis (CF).
Within each of the four competing teams was someone living with or caring for someone with the case condition, working alongside two clinicians and a team of designers.
Ten countries were represented by the designers: South Korea, Portugal, Italy, France, Mexico, Poland, Argentina, Japan, Denmark and the UK.
The teams created prototypes with 3D printers and presented their concepts before a panel of judges from key healthcare organisations and charities, with two teams sharing an award for best concept.
Lab4Living is now working with the teams to take these concepts forward and seek funding for development.
The week also signalled the start of a major new exhibition featuring different health innovations including a suit made of mohair wool designed to react to individual body temperatures and an exhibit entitled ‘Head-Up’, which displayed a series of neck collars to assist patients with MND and neck muscle weakness.
The main conference was attended by more than 100 delegates from 19 different countries.
David Pao, Clinical Lecturer and HIV Physician, Centre for Behavioural Medicine, UCL School of Pharmacy, who attended the conference and exhibition, said: “‘When I initially walked into the exhibition, I thought I had entered an art gallery. But as I spent time and looked more closely, I began to see real attention to detail, quality and a considered depth to the issues the exhibits were focusing on.
“The conference was the most uplifting, friendly and welcoming I have ever been to. At the same time, the presentations demonstrated the tangible value of the collaboration between design and health, and the potential to learn from each other, working and moving forward together.”
The conference organiser, Lab4Living, is an interdisciplinary research initiative, based at Sheffield Hallam’s Art and Design Research Centre which develops environments, products and creative strategies for future living in which people of all ages and abilities ‘not merely survive’ but are enabled and empowered to live with dignity, independence and fulfilment.
Joe Langley, Senior Research Fellow at Sheffield Hallam’s Lab4Living, said: “This year’s conference was a great platform for different groups of people to see the diverse range of content, methods and disciplines which exist when creating healthcare innovations.
“The exhibition provided a real, tangible focal point for many of the debates in the conference, creating provocations, case studies and examples which enhanced and livened the discussion.”
The next Design4Health Conference is planned for 2015.