Hackathon Diaries: Nurses

A hackathon is a design sprint-like event in which computer programmers and others involved in software development, including graphic designers, interface designers, project managers, and others, often including subject-matter-experts, collaborate intensively on software projects (source: Wikipedia)

There you go. It’s 2016, hackathons aren’t just for coders.  Having never attended a hackathon as a UXer before, I was lucky enough to attend two in the last month. Move fast, break things (with stable infrastructure); fun, kinda geeky and super rewarding. You’ll be exhausted after, but it’s worth it.

Here’s how the Nurse event went down.

The Brief

UK nurses spend huge amounts of time daily in administrative tasks rather than delivering patient care. Our challenge was to develop a hack to make their patient update coordination role more efficient – in this case, our specific users were A&E nurses.

What We Did

A two day hackathon at the Royal College of Nursing (RCN), organised by the XDs– gathering designers, developers, students, researchers and nursing staff as testers, in 10 teams of 6-8. The schedule for the two days was planned to a tee (including dedicated professional yoga and hardcore fitness sessions!).

Day One involved understanding the problem and coming up with a solution.

Day Two involved developing the prototype and delivering the solution in the form of a presentation in front of the judges.

The idea we came up with was ‘Paperless’, a smart form on a tablet connected to IoT monitoring devices to make updating patient data less physically/manually consuming and repetitive.

Currently nurses’ admin burden is high, and it is possible to make mistakes through use of paper records. With Paperless, we can reduce time spent on form filling by 30mins per patient, which saves 123 hours in admin work for an NHS hospital with 200 A&E patients.

What We Learned

Too many cooks and ideas, not enough decisions or consensus made. The hardest thing about hackathons is not the lack of idea generation, but getting everyone on the same page on something to move forward within a limited time frame. This requires abandoning egos, avoid getting too precious or attached to early ideas – stick to what addresses the problem.

When time is short, answer: what is the problem? In a time restricted scenario like a hackathon, identify the problem as soon as possible. Choose a specific, basic problem or tackle part of the problem that will have the most impact in reducing painpoint, rather than attempting to solve the whole system altogether.

Presentation matters. Although the team were clear on the idea, the low-fidelity prototype didn’t deliver this vision clearly to the judges. It’s worth getting your prototypes drawn neatly or prototyped in software.

What are the current ‘as in’ steps – where are the painpoints where can we can introduce the hack? See below for an illustration of this.

Different modes of behaviour need different products. This means different personas, in the the case of nurses – routine mode, assessment mode, acute mode.

Ideas We Liked

Nurses advocated the idea of individuals owning and carrying their own digitised patient records, in the form of an ID card, QR code, chip or connected a server.

The XDs were proactive in gathering user feedback throughout the the two day event. For example, voxpops requests and after the final presentation we were given an emoji feedback form (below) – simple, clever and creative.

Overall Thoughts

The judges chose to go forward with the teams whose solutions were voice input technology based. The lesson? Adopt tried and tested, familiar user systems and existing tech on the market, rather than reinventing the wheel to increase your chances of success. For example, it would be unrealistic to expect hospital wards to make a major investment for all equipment to be IoT compatible in the early stages.

Having actual users (nurses) involved in ideation and design process was highly useful in getting immediate feedback and ensuring empathy was built into the solution.

Have you been to a hackathon? What did you learn from it? Tweet your thoughts to me @ChristinaLai1