Helping hands – the vision of a complete health care eco system

Ergonomidesign is a design consultancy that has historically focused on designing devices that make life easier for people with disabilities. Their video “Helping Hands” portrays a future scenario for a health care system where every person will have instant access to their own biometric data, and where the process of getting diagnoses and treatments is remarkably more convenient than the conventional way.  The CEO of Ergonomidesign, Krister Torssell, talks about their vision on health care, and the urge to modernise an ancient health care system.

The foundation for Ergonomidesign has always been the perspective of other humans. When the company started in 1969, we mainly focused on people with disabilities and different handicaps, and how to make life easier for them. We tried to make service conditions better and create tools that would allow disabled people to work as if they weren’t. We learned a lot in this process, and moving on to Life Science was a natural step.

Our goal is to increase the life quality for humans, and to use user-driven innovation and new technology to do so. Every day at the office, people share their visions and new ideas, and we discuss possibilities and scenarios for the future.

Channelling the ideas into a video

As we were preparing for the Medica Fair 2009, we wanted to gather all those ideas and visions into one scenario that would showcase what we want to tell the world, and what possibilities actually lie in today’s technology. That is how the idea of the video about the future of health, “Helping Hands”, was born.

Future health care through the lives of Bernard and Hannah

In the video, we follow two people using the future integrated health care services. “Bernard” is diagnosed with Coronary Arterial Disease (CAD), and is dependent on a healthy lifestyle and control over his own health. He carries a tiny elliptical CAD device with a customised software application, through which he can make sure the levels in his body are under control, and therefore control his disease. Bernard can access the information at all times thanks to advanced smart surfaces with multi-touch technology (e.g. phones and tables).

“Hannah” uses a General Health service that helps her keep track of her basic biometric data, like pulse, oxygen levels, tidal breath and blood pressure. When she meets Bernard, they log into their profiles and compare their data on a smart surface. Hannah realises that she has very similar biometric data to Bernard in the initial stages of his disease. Through this early discovery, Hannah can get professional help quickly and therefore has a better starting position for treatment and keeping the disease under control.

Rapidly developing technology

The video is a way of showing what can be done and how we as patients would benefit from using technology as we are used to in other areas, such as managing our economy. Thereby we will hopefully accelerate the development of better devices and most importantly – turning the integration of the different systems and devices into a working eco system.

“Helping Hands” displays a future scenario, but the development in other areas suggest that we soon will have the technology we need to make it come true. We see that different types of touch screens for different devices develop fast, on everything from phones to tablets. With the new types of sensor technology, it will be possible to measure blood levels and other biometric data, or use a dinner table as an integrated smart surface. The possibility of reaching information anywhere is also quickly developing as the number of applications for technical devices grows.

What we are doing in the video is merely applying technology that is more developed in other consumer products and services to a different scenario.

The crucial part – merging functions into a working eco system

A bigger challenge is how to merge all the different components together. It is an area where everything moves much slower. Another big question is what kind of organisation will actually build this system. The solutions will probably be different in different countries.

We have shown our vision of the future, and it is a realistic scenario. We know that many companies are already developing the different components in our future eco-system. Now it’s up to the health care industry to develop a sustainable system that is developed with a premier focus on the patient.

Why the current health care system needs to improve

There is so much room for improvement in today’s health care. Many people are frustrated by the slowness of the process we have to go through to even meet with a doctor. There are so many mechanic arrangements that don’t really have any value; it can take weeks or even months from the first contact with a health care provider to the diagnosis. With the new eco system, everything will be much more effective. The doctor will already be able to have your biometric data analysed when you get there. This way of working will not only make the process more effective, but also create time for the important human meeting. Also, all different caregivers will be integrated into one care-chain, increasing the doctor’s overall control of the patient.

Using technology instead of standing next to it 

In today’s system, there is such a huge discrepancy between the health care system and the Internet. Anyone can search for information on the Internet, and even diagnose herself, often incorrectly. Many people do this because of the frustration of the slow health care system.

These problems must be solved and the industry must develop in line with the patients. It is surprising that things are moving so slow in an industry where there is an urgent need for improvement.

As a design company, we are sometimes looked upon as only caring about what looks pretty. With this concept, we wanted to show how design can develop life-changing ideas. Now, we just look forward to the ideas turning into reality.

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