Winning Innovations Emerge from Health Hackers

The Hacking Health Design Challenge, a multi-city competition, with a stop in Toronto (including MaRS, University Health Network and Centre for Social Innovation), sponsored by ORION, sounds as disruptive as it suggests. Hacking. Isn’t that an indicative of an upheaval? Health design. As in, arts and science in the same room? Turns out, those questions are just the ingredients for a challenge signaling innovation in the borderless realm of health tech.

Bringing together healthcare professionals, developers and designers, teams collaborated to create prototypes of solutions that could address healthcare challenges.

Presented at the 2015 eHealth Conference this week, meet one of the Hacking Health Design Challenge Innovation Award winners, ArtontheBrain. It’s the brainchild of Baycrest Health Sciences, one of ORION’s connected institutions which focuses on health and aging.

ArtonTheBrain: An arts-driven, mobile health solution

At Baycrest, the department of culture, arts and innovation supports a holistic vision of health and wellbeing that embraces innovation, technology and the arts. Aviva Babins, manager of culture, arts and innovation, and her team began exploring the intersection of neuropsychology, arts, and cognitive impairment five years ago based on an identified need amongst older adults aging in the community with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Two years ago, ORION was also alongside Baycrest in their efforts to bring research about brain health and aging to the public through an arts installation, My Virtual Dream.

Many iterations later, they have developed an arts-driven, mobile health solution for older adults called ArtonTheBrain. ArtonTheBrain is an evidence-based, client-centred app that uses visual art as a platform to deliver a mentally and socially engaging user-driven experience. A team of three neuropsychologists will be examining the immediate influences ArtonTheBrain has on users, specifically measuring mood state, reasoning ability, working/associative memory, and attention control.

Elders from Baycrest Terraces at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Photo taken by Keith McManamen, courtesy of Elia Seniors Arts Engagement Program

Building community between science, art, and technology

In partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario (art providers), and patient advisors (users with MCI and their companions), the app aims to promote lifelong learning, brain fitness, and social engagement. Together, the institutions are harnessing their collective knowledge to co-create a dynamic and innovative solution that is led by science, safe for consumers, accessible, and future-forward. In the fall, ArtonTheBrain will be piloted at various adult day programs and home care agencies throughout the GTA.

As a precursor to the study in the fall, ArtonTheBrain was further developed at Hacking Health, taking a deeper dive into user experience, interface design, and gamification elements of the app. The Hacking Health team worked with older adults who attend programs at Baycrest, together expanding upon the app design, content, and helping to change stigmas. 

Hacking Health member Keith McManamus interviews elder from Baycrest Terrace to inform UI and UX design.

What’s healing about art?

If the future of healthcare involves prescribing safe applications for consumers, how can we make this better? As demonstrated in ArtonTheBrain at Hacking Health, Baycrest believes that making healthcare more stimulating via integration of the arts makes better application for users.

Art is a non-biased healing agent that engages the whole person — intellectually, emotionally, and socially. Integrate that with mobile health technology, which can powerfully address limitations to accessibility, and a new possibility is born. This solution brings the activity to the user by creating a purposeful virtual environment in which people can interact.

Aviva Babins with members from Baycrests’ Freeman Family Day Centre at the Art Gallery of Ontario; courtesy of the Elia Seniors Arts Engagement Program

What a hacked world can offer

With implementation coming in the near future, what prototypes like ArtonTheBrain mean is a higher standard set for healthcare in the 21st century. Harnessing tools like smart apps to customize patient care or collaborate across disciplines for a one-of-a-kind healthcare solution like Baycrest and AGO have done, the door is swung open, inviting us into a new portal of intelligent design for enhanced living.

Healthcare challenges are no longer barriers. Events like Hacking Health Design Challenge are invitations to create solutions, enabling experts to imagine and design an intelligent, accessible world like we’ve never seen before.  


Interview contributed by Aviva Babins, Manager, Culture, Arts & Innovation at Baycrest Health Sciences