We gained many insights from working with ‘housebound’ elderly, who are generally hidden from society, and researchers in particular. We learnt to undertake ethnographic research in the home – a research field that is relatively new – and we also had to develop new ways of engaging people with cognitive impairments in the co-design process.
- Professor Trish Greenhalgh, Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences.
The 12 winners of the inaugural Vice-Chancellor’s Awards for Public Engagement with Research were announced today by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson, in a ceremony at Merton College.
Trish Greenhalgh, Professor of Primary Care Health Sciences, and her team in the Interdisciplinary Research in the Health Sciences (IRIHS) group have been recognised for their project Using co-design principles to inform the design of assisted living technologies for older people with complex needs.
The Awards recognise excellence in Public Engagement with Research across three categories: Projects (either for Collaboration, Consultation or Communication purposes); Early-Career Researchers; and Building Capacity.
The Vice-Chancellor said: “We want to create a climate in which we can embed public engagement even more deeply into our research practices…Our aim is to ensure that Oxford acquires a reputation for engaging the public that equals our reputation for research. I encourage you to take inspiration from the inaugural winners of the University’s Public Engagement Awards and reflect on opportunities to engage the public with your own research.”
The IRIHS team's project identified and addressed barriers to the use of assisted-living technologies by older people with chronic illness and their carers through a co-design approach. The study, which included 40 older people with complex needs, focused on those under-represented in previous co-design studies, such as diverse ethnic groups, non-English speakers, and those with dementia.
The project team included researchers from the Universities of Oxford (Joseph Wherton, Sara Shaw, Christine A'Court) and Warwick (Rob Proctor), East London NHS Foundation Trust (Paul Sugarhood) and independent qualitative researcher Sue Hinder.
Commenting on the award-winning project, Professor Greenhalgh said: “There has been much investment in technological innovations to help people maintain independence and self-manage chronic illnesses and progressive frailty. However, uptake of these remain low and if installed they are often abandoned or deliberately disabled by the people they are intended to help.
“We gained many insights from working with ‘housebound’ elderly, who are generally hidden from society, and researchers in particular. We learnt to undertake ethnographic research in the home – a research field that is relatively new – and we also had to develop new ways of engaging people with cognitive impairments in the co-design process.”
Participants in the project had revisions made to their own care packages and/or technologies provided as a result of the co-design process. The work fed directly into the ongoing technology and service design work of industry and public sector partners, several of whom have now changed the way they assess people for assisted-living technologies and provide ongoing support.
The programme has attracted much interest from the UK and abroad. “Success in the initial study helped us gain a programme grant from the Wellcome Trust to explore organisational aspects of technology co-design,” said Professor Greenhalgh. “We are part of an EU-wide collaboration that is planning a Horizon 2020 bid to extend this co-design work.”
In a second ongoing study, the researchers are supporting organisations to adapt their work processes to allow greater personalisation of technologies.