NHS Hack Day 2016

Last weekend saw NHS Hack Day London 2016. It was right in the middle of all my coursework deadlines, but there was no way I was missing it.

Saturday morning arrived and despite a rubbish night’s sleep I was excited to get going. When I got to King’s College the room was already buzzing. I spotted Simon who I had worked with last year and made a beeline for him. We had a great catch up and discussed continuing the project we had started together. There seems to be some pretty exciting developments and I’m looking forward to spending more time on it!

Then, the pitches started. There was some great ideas pitched including ‘beat the bleep’ an alternative to the bleep system used in hospitals, a CBT app, a low maintenance solution to patient records in field hospitals during highly contagious epidemics such as Ebola.

The one that caught my eye was looking at the use of virtual reality in a clinical setting.

Keith was originally asking for developers to create, from scratch, a 360 video viewing app which he could use in his practice.
A group of us were interested in getting involved but our skills didn’t really match his initial idea. After a lot of feeling like spare parts and chatting we finally decided that we could focus on the use of VR in clinical settings and settled on exploring how available consumer VR technology could be used to manage phantom limb pain in amputees.

We managed to come up with a few different ideas of how VR could be used in a clinical setting and experimented from there.

  1. The first technique we attempted was to record Keith moving his hands using a Rico Theta S camera mounted the Gorrillapod and duct taped onto his chest. We then tested this out using the Samsung Gear VR to see how it would be to look down and see our own arms replaced by his doing movements.You can see the videos and/or try them at home with your own VR headset here.
    It was bizarre. You looked down and could tellthat the hands in front of you weren’t yours but as they moved there was a weird sensation in your own arms and they would move in a similar way. Odd. Very odd.
  2. The second idea we tested was to create a low fidelity 3d animation of a persons legs. A few of us tried our hand at Unity to do this but with no luck. I got close but it wasn’t what I wanted. In the end I convinced Mussadiq to download 3DS Max onto his laptop from my autodesk account since I am now fairly confident using that software. We then create a 3d representation of legs doing exercises filmed from a human perspective. We had issues with exporting this in 360 degrees which was frustrating, so couldn’t test this using the VR headset.
  3.  Our next idea was to see if we could use virtual reality as a form of analgesia through distraction.To do this Keith and myself volunteered to do a Cold Pressor Test. This involved placing one hand into a bucket of cold water and ice and timing how long we can last.We then repeated this (after our hands had recovered!) but this time whilst wearing the Samsung Gear VR headset and watching a recording that we had filmed earlier (of our hands in the bucket without the ice water, again using the Rico Theta 360 camera).You can see the footage of me attempting to hold my hand in ice here.
    The results were really quite interesting – I had originally managed to hold my hand in the ice for 1 minute 30 seconds, whilst Keith accomplished 1 minute 11. They then both lasted a full 2 minutes longer with the use of virtual reality.Out of curiosity we also tested Reno with his hand in the ice water and watching a VR film. He lasted a full 4 minutes 22 before we got worried about his hand and pulled it out. He reported that during this experiment he not only forgot about the pain in his hand but also the pain he had been suffering in his back. One thing he did note that was when he looked down he couldn’t see his hands and that this pulled him out of the experience and triggered some pain.

    These experiments show some real potential for the use of distraction therapy in painful procedures (such as wound packing) in particular.

  4. We decided that in the case of phantom limb pain an idea would be to recreate mirror therapy but using a more immersive VR experience. To do this we trialed recording a 360 video of Keith doing arm exercises. We then edited the footage in Adobe Premiere Pro to add a mirror effect vertically through the centre of the film. This had the effect of duplicating his left limb on the right hand side. When using the VR headset this then gave the impression of having two arms.It would be important to make it as similar to the person’s real limb as possible. Therefore, this could be used with patients over a period of time where you record them doing certain exercises using a 360 video device, the footage is then taken away and edited to include the mirror effect and then used with the patient at a later date.Going forward this is something we would like to test with patients suffering from phantom limb pain.You can try the video out for yourself at home if you have a VR headset from here.
  5. We spent some time trying to mirror live streamed footage from the Ricoh Theta S to the Gear VR Headset but sadly found the the lag in transmission meant that this was ineffective in our tests.

You can read the full details of our project at virtualanalgesia.net

Then it was time to pitch. The progress groups had made on their projects was amazing. Some of my favourites included:

  • A CBT web app – which you can view here
  • Daily Pollute – an app to track daily pollution exposure.
  • A digital anesthetic chart

You can watch all the presentations here

All in all a pretty fascinating weekend for me, surrounded by really lovely and interesting people from all walks of life. I’m already looking forward to the next one.

You can see all the excitement from the event on Twitter by searching #NHSHD


Wow, I really am a useless blogger. Need to get into doing this more often.

I have exciting news! I spent this weekend in London at NHS Hack Day 10 and it was amazing.

After a very nervous start I sat and listened to people’s pitches – there were some incredible ideas of how we could improve patient and practitioners lives in the NHS. One in particluar grabbed me as a great idea that I could get involved in – a game to teach children with type 1 diabetes about carbohydrates so they can better manage their condition.

After a bit of a chaotic brainstorm we had a plethora of ideas and got down to work. I was part of the design team initially and created the main characters in the game.


This is Jamie the Space Giraffe, the protagonist of the game.

Gluco the Pig

This is Gluco the pig, he is Jamie’s helper friend who tells you how to play the game.


This is the evil Captain Ketone!

I then moved onto the development team and worked with another person to adapt a game of Space Invaders so that Jamie was shooting insulin at carbs.


You can check out our team’s games here

I would totally recommend getting involved in a hack day – it’s a fantastic way to meet new people and put your brains to the test.


Our Good Friend Social Media…

Research has shown that social networking – particularly on Facebook- is bad for our mental health. Sounds strange doesn’t it? A site that helps us stay in contact and reconnect with friends and loved ones must surely only make us feel good, right?

Kross conducted a study and found that a statistically siginificant number of participant’s reoprted feeling worse after interactions on social media (not reported after spending time with someone in person). He says it could be that Facebook activates ‘a powerful social comparison process':

Other people tend to post information—pictures, announcements, etc—that make their lives appear to be great. Frequent exposure to such information could lead people to feel worse about their own lives. That’s just one potential explanation. There are likely to be other factors too—for example, lack of interaction with other people directly.


Let’s take a look at Koko. Rob Morris has been developing a social network designed to actually help sufferers of depression and other mental illnesses. The concept is sort of like an online self-help group and supportive community. People post things to help others rather than boast about themselves.

The idea is every time we have a stressful situation, there are innumerable things we tell ourselves and that story can have huge implications for our well-being,

The crowd [on Koko] might come up with a whole bunch of interpretations that are wholly plausible, but way less negative.

This social network is based on the idea that mental health creates of ‘faulty thinking’ and adapts a form of cognitive behavioural therapy to aid sufferers. In other words, the way we think about a certain topic is what is causing the problem rather than the topic itself.

In this social network, other users play the role of the therapist – pointing out the ‘faults’ (thought processes that aren’t rational or helpful) in a person’s thinking, prioviding alternatives reasons for situations which are not as negative as the inital poster immediately thought.

But why would you want to spend time reading about people being negative? Morris thinks that assisting other people in fixing faulty thinking is itself therapy for the person offering the advice.

“As you’re helping other people, you’re learning techniques and rehearsing them over and over. That’s an interesting interaction idea that I don’t believe has existed before in the mental app space,” he says.


Maybe social media can have a positive place in mental health? We’ll have to wait untill the autumn for the public release of Koko to find out. But in the mean time, it might be an idea to cut down on Facebook…


Want to find out more? Check out these links:

Facebook is bad :(

A Facebook like thing is good :)

Hacking the NHS

I wanted to share with you my complete over excitement about this NHS Hack day I’m going to!

If you don’t know what a hack day is, the NHS Hack Day site describe them as

“…a fun way to brainstorm collaboratively and come up with quick solutions. Making actual “products” isn’t necessarily the aim; it’s about having a great time, learning something and meeting some brilliant people. The main advantage of Hack Days is having people with a wide range of skills all in the same room and working together, something which may not be acheived quite so explicitly during day jobs in software development.

What makes NHS Hack Days different is that we are committed to welcoming people who don’t necessarily have computer skills to our events. We want everyone with any interest whatsoever in healthcare technology: healthcare professionals, patients and their relatives, representatives from charities, and anyone else who wants to help out, or even just to see what we’re doing. Notably a career researcher in chemistry came along to one of our recent events by accident thinking it was a day of lectures, but he was persuaded to stay anyway and ended up being part of the winning team!”

Have I said that I’m excited yet?

This is going to be my first Hack day and it just fits so perfectly what I’m interested in I couldn’t miss it. Unfortunately it does mean I’ll be missing the Saturday of The Great Escape festival in Brighton but oh well.

The event is branded as being for geeks who love the NHS, and I’m so proud to be one. I might even get it on a t-shirt….

How about this for a design?


I’m getting distracted again. To remain true to form, I have included a Youtube video. This is a great video describing the NHS Hack day in better detail than I have.

I think, what I’m trying to get across in this post, is that if you’re a geek who loves the NHS like me keep an eye out for these events.
Obviously I’ll be back on here telling you about my experience in May. And please PLEASE get in touch if you’re going to be heading to London’s NHS Hack day 2015, would be great to have a chin-wag.



Virtual Therapy

Afternoon! I’ve been really enjoying discovering and blogging about technological advances in health – so much so that I would really like to pursue an internship in this field, but I’ve only found ones in Southern California so far…. I’ll keep looking. (There is a masters degree in Digital Healthcare at Warwick which looks interesting though!) But anyway my point was going to be that I’ve been talking about these products to friends and family and they’ve told me about what they’ve heard about. This week my boyfriend heard on the radio a discussion about using virtual reality in therapy. He knew I’d be interested and repeated the gist of it to me and now I’ve gone off to investigate it.

As usual, I have a video to show you.

It’s hard to imagine the effects of PTSD on your everyday life but it sounds horrific to try and live with. Being able to deal with those real life events in a safe way is surely a brilliant way of combatting it (for some people at least). There’s scope to use this for suffers of abuse – sexual or physical.

A university in Auckland has developed a computer game to help depression in young people. Have a little look at this video:

Isn’t this great? Both of these videos show how we’re using technology in an innovative way to engage and help those individuals for whom traditional counselling just isn’t right for. As the people these techniques are targeted at have mostly grown up surrounded by digital technologies, many of them would identify more with using these virtual therapies than they may with discussing personal issues with a relative stranger.

Personally, I think I’d prefer talking to my counsellor than using a game version, but that’s because I’m not a big gamer and already feel I spend too long on the computer. I’m not really the target audience in that respect but I still think its a fantastic development.

Electronic Skin

I was having another little look at last weeks infographic and a little orange box labelled ‘wearable e-skins’ caught my eye. I googled it and the first page I landed on drew me in. As usual, I want to share a few videos with you about what Ive discovered today.

Video from Biz Buzz on Youtube. You can read the original article on Nature

There seems to be a lot of competing products being developed so it’s likely that electronic skin will become a reality in the not too distant future. But as the video suggested, commercial uses are being seen quicker than medical ones. – have a look at this video…

Video from VivaLnk

The concept of this is pretty damn cool, but personally I don’t find unlocking my phone warrants enough effort for this – although VivaLnk have just released some customisable versions which allow you to open different applications on your phone.

I do think however that the potential health benefits are amazing. VivaLnk are introducing e-skin thermometers this year which is defintely a step in te right direction. Here’s one more video from a guy who clearly shares my enthusiasm and explains what these brilliant tiny pieces of tech could be able to do for us in the future…

Video from FW: Thinking via Youtube

I just think this sounds incredible. As someone who takes a fair bit of medication everyday and is liable to headaches and pain the drug releasing patch sounds brilliant. As a granddaughter of a 90 year old who needs carers and has a family constantly worrying about her the benefits seem even more astounding – maybe a section could be inbuilt to send a text to designated numbers if something bad happens like a heart attack or a fall as well as issuing some form of pain relief?

If you want to read more about any of this theres a couple of great articles in the New Scientist and Nature.

Printing Blood

Today, I was browsing around the internet investigating technological advances in health and stumbled across this infographic on an article called ‘The 7 Biggest Innovations in Health Care Technology in 2014‘.

Infographic accessed from ‘GetReferralMd‘ who cite ‘Medical Future‘ as their source.

The article discusses a few of the different ideas on this infographic. One of the things described as ‘in progress’ above is 3D Printed Bio Materials. This is the idea that we can use 3D printers to create organs, parts of organs, tissue matter, stem cells even bone marrow. Wow.

So, that’s what I’ve decided to focus on today. I did a bit of digging online and discovered some videos and more info about it to share with you. But no doubt I’ll be coming back to concentrate on other things in that fantastic infographic very shortly.

The geniuses at Organovo have been developing blood vessels. Take a quick look at the videos below – if you’re anything like me, you won’t be disappointed.

Video accessed from Organovo


Video posted by Raunaque Noor on Youtube, originally aired on The National Geographic Channel.

It just seems incredible that potentially so soon in the future this will be a viable option for the massive number of people needing organ transplants. I find this totally inspiring. It is so incredible what technical and digital developments are allowing us to do.


Ear Worm

I was taking a little browse through the #digitalhealth trend on Twitter this morning and came across @JanSeghers tweet linking to and article on Mashable discussing 5 big digital health innovations that will hit us in 2015. The one that caught my eye most was BitBite. Take a look at this video…

Video property of ‘Hello Bitbite‘ and accessed via YouTube.

Being someone that has tried (and often failed) to improve my eating habits (like most people in the UK) this seems like quite a cool idea. Although it is a little creepy to have something ‘whisper in your ear’. Personally, I think being constantly monitored and reminded is a good way to build up new habits and I think this is a really clever way of doing just that. Unfortunately as a skint student I can’t afford to back this on Indiegogo but I would if I could. Maybe more out of curiosity though because I do rather enjoy scoffing excessive amounts of cheese and marmite toasties.

Making Sense

Okay, so I’ve got a couple of videos to show you. Take a look, and you’ll see something I think is pretty incredible. It’s all about senses – particularly sound and sight – and how recently developed technology can improve upon sight (or even make it from scratch) for those who really need it. Forget Google Glass materialistically bringing the internet into our everyday vision and imagine being given a form of visual perception if you’d only ever seen darkness and grey vague shapes.



Video from the University of Bath.


Youtube video courtesy of What’s the Big Deal?

Isn’t that incredible? Okay, so it may not be fully restoring sight and the sounds are pretty intense to you and me but that is a major development in technology and in health.

I stumbled across vOICe (with the capitalised ‘OIC’ standing for ‘Oh I See’, go on say it out loud) in the Guardian. It has been in the making for over a decade and the app is totally free so even you could turn your phone into this illusion of vision device.

The Guardian article above discusses the idea that this research and the vOICe device is more beneficial than stem cell technology. This is because using stem cells to improve vision can often be expensive and disappointing. People get their hopes up, expecting it to be how it was before and feel let down when they’re still only seeing the world sub-par to what it once was (often leading to other issues like depression).

I know that it seems quite overwhelming and doesn’t sound like it would be all that effective when you watch the video of walking round the yard but according to Proulx, the researcher whose work has been used here, it actually does a pretty good job. In an article in the Guardian he is quoted:

In the first couple of months after someone had received a retinal implant, they could expect to have a level of vision that was “20/800” – equivalent to being able to see the outline of things that were directly in front of them.

To put this in perspective, a short-sighted person who removed their glasses would have a level of vision that was around 20/400, meaning that they could see clearly up to a foot away. “We found that after just a week’s basic training, people were able to get to levels of 20/250.”

The actually technology is developed by Dr Peter Meijer, he has described the vOICe and learning to use it in an article by the BBC:

While it can’t track fast cars or read small print efficiently, it does allow blind users to trace out buildings, read a graph and even watch television.

Comparing it in terms of difficulty to learning a foreign language, Meijer hopes that in the long run, users will become more “fluent” in the mental translation so that it becomes more like natural perception, without conscious effort.


Think how much difference this kind of technology could make. It could just make everyday life that much easier. And I’m still astounded by just how clever it is.


Just another Smartwatch?

We’ve all heard about wearable technology – Google Glass and Smartwatches being prime examples. Smartwatches by brands such as Samsung or Apple commonly let you connect to the internet, text etc. all from your wrist – with no need to get your phone out. Handy? I’m not particularly interested to be honest, but if you are that’s great. Today, in the New Scientist, I discovered a smart watch that got me excited though. The Embrace.

This Smartwatch is really very clever.  Empatica has targeted it at those living with epilepsy. Embrace detects changes in the skin’s electrical activity as a precursor for what is happening in the brain. It can therefore detect the start of a seizure before it actually occurs. This allows a pre-programmed message to be sent to the patient’s family and/or friends alerting them. How brilliant is that?!

Check it out below:

Video coutersy of Empatica via Youtube.


If a watch can save lives then it is so worth supporting their Indiegogo campaign. They’ve already gained 262% of their original target and I can totally see why. I want to get my hands on it and give it a go just to track my everyday health, just out of pure curiosity. How cool would it be to see on your phone how your body is working? And the style of the normal watch function is pretty funky too.

I don’t suffer with epilepsy although I know someone who does and every step we take to making the world a safer place for these people is a giant leap forward for them and their families. Plus, for every Embrace bought Empatica is donating one to a child who really does need it. So go out and spread the word. Let’s embrace medical technology. Let’s embrace Embrace.