Health app design and evaluation service launched by Coventry University

Research news

Monday 27 February 2012

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Two of Coventry University’s applied research institutes are collaborating to launch a new app design and evaluation service for smart phone and tablet devices.

The Health Design & Technology Institute (HDTI) and the Serious Games Institute (SGI) are bringing together their respective expertise in community-based healthcare and software development in the delivery of this initiative, which adds a third consultancy stream to HDTI’s existing product design and usability testing services.

App design and build will be delivered in collaboration with the University’s Serious Games Institute, whose developers have specialist knowledge in this area and have already produced a number of apps in the health and social care sector.

HDTI is also able to draw on the significant community healthcare expertise that exists in the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences and within its highly-respected applied research centres.

The app evaluation offering is an online service that provides user feedback more quickly than a traditional usability study while retaining the ethical framework, academic rigour, independence and expert end-user involvement.

Critically, the participants in the evaluations are potential users with health conditions and expert knowledge appropriate to the app. At the end of an evaluation, the client commissioning the study receives a star rating report on 20 separate usability criteria, together with comments from the participants.

Clients who have used either the app design and build or the app evaluation services will also be offered the opportunity to have their product featured on a new ‘App Zone’ being developed for HDTI’s new website. This would include the evaluation report (if commissioned) and feature links to the App Store or Android Market where the product may be purchased.

With the number of apps being developed continuing to grow at a phenomenal rate, it is becoming increasingly difficult for a new product to be noticed. To help to address this issue the App Zone will be a library that features only health, wellbeing and social care apps, making them easier to locate and download.

Guy Smallman, commercial development director at HDTI, said:

We are extremely excited about this new addition to our consultancy services. App design and evaluation fits in seamlessly with our existing product design and usability offerings and this is a natural extension to HDTI’s activity serving academic, professional and commercial clients. We also believe the HDTI online evaluation service is an excellent way of independently evaluating a new app using a representative and informed group of end-users.

Tim Luft, director of the SGI, said:
Health and wellbeing apps make up approximately 40% of new smartphone applications being developed. We have already designed a number of apps conceived by academics in the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences, and we’re very excited to be extending this work to include companies and professionals in the health and social care sectors.

The new service adds to Coventry University’s existing portfolio of digital projects which are run under its Digital Media Grand Challenge Initiative (GCI) – an applied research programme exploring the ways in which digital platforms can be exploited to promote content in innovative ways.

As part of the Digital Media GCI, the University’s Faculty of Health and Life Sciences recently launched an app, developed by the SGI, which has been designed to support and educate midwives, student midwives and junior doctors in the management of shoulder dystocia – the phenomenon wherein a baby’s shoulder becomes stuck behind the mother’s pelvic bone during birth.