Matthew Harrison: Responding to complex healthcare issues

Helix is a design studio centred on the development of simple solutions to complex healthcare problems.

The Healthcare Innovation Exchange or Helix is a design studio based in St Mary’s Hospital in London. Here, a team of designers share a space with clinical practitioners and researchers. Together, they develop impactful solutions to complex healthcare issues.

“The idea of the studio is it’s a place for us to work with patients, clinicians, doctors, and nurses on all sorts of projects,” says designer Matthew Harrison. “It gives us that focal point.”

The studio is co-founded by Imperial College London and the Royal College of Art and is based on the philosophy that real medical breakthroughs occur when people-centred design and scientific rigour collide.  

When presented with problems related to healthcare, Harrison says the studio explores various ways to find a solution, but they do shy away from designing medical devices. “The output of our projects is very rarely known at the beginning. So we might make products, we might make services, we might make apps,” he adds.

Helix has designed an asthma management app called Floot, which works out what triggers a child’s asthma so that the child can control the attack before it takes hold. The studio has also designed a printed card brochure to help cancer sufferers navigate the complexities of their treatment. It acts as a discussion tool between the clinician and the patient.

In one of their more controversial projects, Helix designed a communication strategy – posters, an app, and leaflets – that provide doctors on the frontline with information on how to provide dignified end-of-life care to a dying person. 

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