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Apps for health: how new technology is tackling coronavirus

Apps for health: how new technology is tackling coronavirus

The Innovation team at Instinctif harness the best of the future to deliver market-leading ideas in the present. The team’s specialism spans digital strategy and marketing, data & analytics, and strategic brand. This fortnightly update shares top tips to help you foster creative and challenge the status quo and summarises the news that matters.

Innovation: Changing the face of how we stay healthy

The NHS is a much-loved, much-praised UK institution. It’s seen as a pillar of our values and our communities. Whilst it’s evolved and grown since its creation in 1948, the recent Coronavirus crisis has seen this healthcare giant adapt and adopt new technology at an unprecedented speed.

In response to the increased demand resulting from the pandemic, the NHS and associated organisations have been developing innovations – at speed – that are not only helping to tackle the virus, but could change the way we communicate about our own health moving forward.

Technology is changing how awareness is spread, how we communicate and helping diagnose people remotely

One of the biggest challenges of the pandemic has been how health services can best deploy the limited resources available. Apps have been fundamental in getting accurate, precise and vital information across to individuals in the ‘new normal’.

We have seen Apple promoting the official NHS app in the App Store to help share official coronavirus information from the NHS in the UK. This provides a symptom-checker and advice from health experts.
The Department of Health and Social Care has also set up a WhatsApp messaging service where people can get official advice directly from the government. Having a remote reliable hub with accurate and up-to-date information could lessen of a strain on the whole system in the future.

Last week, C-19 COVID Symptom Tracker, an app to track the symptoms of COVID-19, was created by researchers at Guy’s and St. Thomas’ hospitals and King’s College London university in just three days. Users input their symptoms into the app to allow it to track the virus’ impact in real time and deliver insights into where it is spreading and why some people get worse symptoms than others. The app is being embraced by the public already, with around 50,000 downloads per hour. C-19 COVID Symptom Tracker is designed to help bring together information that could prove vital to medical professionals to better plan their responses in future.

When it comes to health professionals communicating between themselves, a statement on the NHSX website detailed that clinicians can use messaging services like WhatsApp to share information around the pandemic and support home working through video conferencing for consultations and mobile messaging.

The need for quick thinking and new technologies is evident on the NHSX website with a call to companies and organisation to offer up their technology-based solutions, with the top 20 entrants in line to win £25,000 in government funding to test their ideas.

The focus areas include “remote social care solutions, such as providing domiciliary care and technology in the home; optimisation of staffing in care and volunteer sectors, like projecting the demand for health and care workers to improve management of resources; and ideas around mental health, including how the NHS can facilitate the wellbeing of its employees with tech.”

There are plenty of other developments in the works such as a data platform, which tracks the movement of critical staff and materials, the GoodSAM app, which is being used to recruit volunteers, and the mindfulness app, Headspace, which has given free resources to the NHS staff to ease stress during this time.

All of these developments could change the way professionals communicate with both the general public and each other. Could it mean that, going forward, we can expect the majority of doctor’s appointments to take place online? Perhaps it will lead to more crowd-sourced, real-time information-sharing around winter flu or experiences of spring hay fever?

Most importantly, could this reduce the ever-increasing strain on limited health resources across the world?

Top tips

Making WFH work for you: How the experts do it

With a third of the world’s population currently on lockdown, working from home has become forcibly in vogue.

Social media rings out with the sound of people adjusting to the change, with the Innovation team’s social listening intelligence finding over 200,000 posts from the past week alone using the hashtags #WorkFromHome or #WorkingFromHome, across Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. In the current climate, lots of people are turning to social media to share their experiences, offer advice or laugh at the situation.

And while the short commute from your bed to your live-in office undoubtedly has its appeal, there are steps to take to make sure that you’re seeing the benefits of this new world – and not falling into a work / sleep continuum.

Here are some tips from those in the know around the behaviours that will make remote working work for you.

1. Find your spot – and stick to it
The communal challenge of setting up a new desk space at short notice was comically showcased in a viral Twitter thread this month from developer Jules Forrest. Here, people shared their respective ‘making the best of it’ situations, posting images of their desks set out in the only spaces available to them, whether that be next to their front door, on top of an outside bin or above a pile of toilet paper. Similarly, you’ll have no doubt seen posts of people sharing their experience of working alongside pets, children and their other halves.

According to Google’s in-house productivity expert, Laura Mae Martin, in an interview with Business Insider, carving out a designated work space is key to separating your time spent ‘in the office’ and your time spent ‘at home’.

“Try to find some places in your house where you never work, because that creates that mental safety and distance. As much as you can, still try to create those boundaries for your brain — that will both help you relax and it’ll help you focus when you are in that space.”

2. ‘Go’ to the office
When you work in an office, you have a structure to your day. Waking up, showering, getting dressed, travelling to the office – all of these actions help put you in the work headspace. When you’re working from home, the same rules apply.

The Bloomberg team echo the importance of recreating those cues that you are going to work – even when the office looks a lot like home.  “Try to stick to some semblance of your original routine from before you started working from home,” says reporter Eric Lam. If you needed to be at your desk at 8 a.m., don’t wake up at 7:59. Give yourself a little bit of time before your start to wake yourself up, have a coffee and make breakfast. Especially for those of us—like me—who are not morning types.”

The expert rule is: the office is the office and home is home and never the twain shall meet. Even when home is currently your office.

3. Ringfence your sleep                  
NHS doctor Dr Frankie Jackson-Spence, featured in this Country Living article, stresses the need to keep your bedroom as a sleep sanctuary when WFH.

By sticking to a sleep schedule (read: not bringing your phone to bed and checking your emails in the middle of the night), you’ll help yourself get enough quality, uninterrupted rest to fully recharge overnight.

And her top tip? “To ensure your brain associates your bedroom with sleep, only get in bed when you want to drift into dreamland.”

That means – if you didn’t already know it – working from bed is out.

 4. Keep the water cooler moments running
The small talk often becomes the big talk – and it’s important not to lose that when geographically separate from your colleagues.

Apple’s Steve Jobs took the view that: “Creativity comes from spontaneous meetings, from random discussions. You run into someone, you ask what they’re doing, you say ‘Wow,’ and soon you’re cooking up all sorts of ideas”. There’s no reason why those spontaneous idea sharing sessions should stop when working remotely – but you need to create the space for these conversations.

Within the Innovation team, we use – the now ubiquitous – Microsoft Teams to say good morning each day, to send each other thoughts, updates – and crucially, well-chosen GIFs, as well as to communicate when we’re stepping away from our desks or signing off for the night.

We book in regular video catch-ups to talk about our days and share news – work-related or otherwise. It’s a way of keeping the team’s spirit and conversation going as we would if we were all sitting together; of staying together when we’re physically apart.

Being just a few weeks into widespread working from home means businesses have largely overcome the initial logistical challenges involved. Employees have what they need to turn their home into their workspace; they’ve got the equipment and they know how to use it. The next hurdle is how organisations will keep their workforces engaged over the next days, weeks, and possibly months.

We’ll be watching closely – and will report back – to share how businesses are keeping their people motivated in this new, remote landscape.

Tool of the week

How do you keep your mental health in check when you’re locked inside the house for 23 and a half hours a day?

Enter Youper, which uses artificial intelligence to help people reduce their anxiety levels, manage their mood and improve their sleep, using a range of strategies from Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) to Mindfulness. You can use it by having a digital conversation with the app, listen to its mindfulness practices and sleep sounds and monitor your emotions with the mood tracker.

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