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Your first step in developing technological solutions for an illness or condition is to understand the full range and depth of what the illness is and how it affects people.

Find out more about the illness. For example, find the prevalence, likely progression, and current ‘best practice’ care model. This will allow you to estimate how many users a product is likely to have, how long they can/will use it for, and how this fits with current care. Remember, there will be ‘mild’ and ‘severe’ forms of the illness, different age groups, ethnicities, genders and so on. Once you understand how the illness is patterned, this could inform work to ‘personalise’ the technology for different sub-groups (see ‘Responding to complexity in the intended users’ below).  

To learn about the illness, use different data sources, e.g. from national and regional databases, academic and grey literature, health and care practitioners, patient organisations, patients. 

Potential sources:

  • NHS Choices – a searchable database of illnesses, including diagnosis, treatment and likely course
  • NICE guidelines - evidence-based recommendations in a variety of conditions, procedures and technologies across health and social care developed by independent committees
  • Cochrane library – a database of high-quality systematic reviews of treatments
  • Healthtalk – a database of patients’ accounts of what it’s like to live with different illnesses
  • Macmillan – a website for people with cancer, with detailed information on prevalence, treatment and prognosis. There are similar patient-facing websites for most conditions. Explore them!