At Doteveryone, we look for the products and services that will make the biggest difference to the most people's lives.
As with any good piece of design, it's important to start with understanding the needs of the different people you might be designing for. Our research starts with conversations with the people who might use the services. Then we build prototypes and test them - improving them so they meet people's needs. If the prototype works, then we'll scale it or hand it over to partners. We publish what we've found out so we, or someone else, can learn and make something better.
At the moment our focus is on healthcare, starting with End of Life care for older people. End of Life sometimes means the final hours or days - this is especially the case when talking to people thinking about emergency care. But it can also mean the last year or years of living with one or more life-limiting conditions. We're not focussing on emergency care or DNA CPRs, but understanding how technology can improve the quality of this longer last phase of life - how it can reduce social isolation, empower people, and make them feel valued and heard.
A life-limiting condition is one for which there isn't a cure, but it doesn't necessarily mean death is imminent or predictable. There is rarely a time stamp, so people at the end of life, their carers and families can and do live with a lot of uncertainty.
Why should we care?
Older people at the end of their life aren't a niche concern. We don't like talking about it, but death happens to us all, and two-thirds of deaths occur in old age. Britain is getting older and we'll carry on living longer, with smaller pension pots and fewer people to care for us. Over the next 25 years, there will be 57% more people in Britain aged 65 and over. The social care funding gap is increasing and there are currently 5.8 million unpaid carers.
So it will get harder to have a decent quality of life in retirement and old age, and more difficult to live a good life at the end of life.
We know that mass market digital services can leave many behind. We believe that designing for the furthest first will lead to more inclusive and accessible services that everyone can use.
So we're finding ways technology can make the last phase of life easier for older people with life-limiting conditions. Their needs of the healthcare system aren't unusual. They just have lots of of them, from different parts of the system, and little time to waste. If you've had a medical condition for forty years, explaining your medical history to a new GP might take up an entire appointment. Having to wait on the phone for hours is even more frustrating if you've been told you have six months left.
If the NHS works for older people at the end of life, it works for everyone. Putting people's needs first, making things that are easy to use and accessible make it more likely that digital-first products and services will be scalable and work for everyone.
And older people at the end of life are people before they're patients. Many feel like they're seen as a collection of illnesses, not a person. Many are lonely. This shouldn't be the case.
We're using these two ideas as the basis for the prototypes we're developing.
We're not recommending care robots. We're prototyping things like collaborative health diaries, and ways of breaking social isolation - showing how NHS and social care could be different.
We believe providing useful, understandable information will help older people and their carers to live better lives and have more peaceful deaths, and help clinicians and the NHS and social care workforce to work more effectively - with the systems, rather than around or in spite of them.
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