We had an inspirational trip to Alder Hey Children’s Hospital today to visit one of our advisors and introduce them to a partner organisation of ours.
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital moved to a brand new site two years ago and is driven by innovation. They are very ‘patient first’ and this has resulted in the creation of a unique environment which is incredibly well placed to improve outcomes for children. Innovation at Alder Hey in the Park, the new site, is evident on arrival. Inspired by design suggestions from children at the hospital there is a strong focus on connecting the indoor and outdoor environments. Common across many of the suggestions submitted were images of the outdoors and so three wings of the hospital represent leaves.
This layout, whilst harder work for the staff in terms navigating themselves around the hospital site, is optimal for patients because it means that each room has access to natural light. Play areas at the end of each wing all open out to an outdoor play area and a view of greenery.
Inside the architecture is similarly thoughtful and innovative, from a heavy use of wood, which has a calming influence, to the absence of use of traditional cleaning materials (the hospital does not smell like a hospital), to the placement of tactile characters which are found through out the hospital, a huge amount of thought and effort has gone into creating a space where the stress of being in hospital, for both the child and their family, is significantly reduced. One of the areas I was most struck by was this very normal looking kitchen.
Every ward has it’s own kitchen… originally set up just for children being treated for various forms of cancer, who struggle tasting food as a result of their treatment, the hospital quickly learned that rather than being an exceptional overhead, offering the children what they wanted to eat, at the time of day or night that suited them dramatically reduced wastage and therefore cost. It is too early to measure the healing benefits of this innovative approach but it’s a logical assumption that benefits to their rate of healing and general well being would be increased.
As we have learned through our work to date with Thinking of Oscar, Paediatric Healthcare is a proportionately under invested segment and new innovations are typically targeted at problems facing adults. These may then adapted for use for children and babies, and sometimes this means that potential benefits are compromised. Alder Hey have a specialist innovation team who are very focused on evaluating and successfully deploying innovative technologies and practices for the benefit of the children in their care. From an AI driven app, which aids communication between the hospital and the patient and their parents as well as providing entertainment to distract them, to 3D printers which are used to create various simulated body parts to improve the realism of training, to Virtual Reality systems enabling a clinician to ‘walk’ around the body prior to a critical operation to help them to plan an approach.
2017 has been an incredibly busy year for Thinking of Oscar. We are still in the process of updating our website with all of the projects which are now underway, and if you are interested then please do check back with us periodically as you will note constant change. The partner organisation we introduced today to Alder Hey are Babypod.com. In conjunction with Williams Advanced Engineering they are building highly technical devices which facilitate the easier and safer transportation and scanning of very young children. We intend to fund a number of these into a number of hospitals across England over the next 12 months.
Visits like today are so important to help us to continue to inform our thinking as to the best ways to successfully apply innovation into paediatrics and to learn from the expertise of others.