In 2018 I applied for the Medical i-Teams programme while doing my PhD at the University of Cambridge because I wanted to participate in a project called myICUvoice. myICUvoice is a communication tool designed specifically for mechanically-ventilated patients (who cannot verbally-speak) and their nurses.
I am an anthropologist and I thought that i-Teams would be an interesting way for me to learn more about working in industry while using my qualitative research skills in an interdisciplinary setting. Our Medical i-Teams group worked together to give myICUvoice some concrete advice about how they could move their business plans forward. After the 8-week i-Teams project had finished, myICUvoice founder Dr. Timothy Baker and Dr. Vilas Navapurkar spoke with me about the possibility of designing and conducting a service evaluation of myICUvoice.
At that time, myICUvoice was being used in the ICU at Addenbrookes hospital, and it had received a lot of positive feedback from some of the nurses and patients. But despite the benefits that nurses described, the data the software collects suggested it wasn’t being used for every patient that would benefit from it. Hence the need for a service evaluation.
I used my ethnographic skills (observation in the Addenbrookes ICU, surveys, and semi-structured interviews with nurses) in order to gain a more in-depth understanding of how the tool was used. Effectively, I wanted to understand, in-depth: “what about myICUvoice was working well for nurses and their patients” and “what was getting in the way of letting myICUvoice work for them.”
The key findings of my service evaluation, some of which were published as a conference poster, led to a significant redesign of the myICUvoice app. For example: the app now features a Nurse Zone which has been specifically designed to engage nurses. This was all back in 2018-2019 and, while we wanted for me to be able to continue full-time with myICUvoice, time and resources didn’t allow for it. Eventually, the entire project was more or less put on hold.
Fast forward to 21 March 2020. I received a text message from Dr. Timothy Baker, telling me that (in light of COVID19 and the consequent number of mechanically-ventilated patients) myICUvoice was gearing back up again. Could I help by Project Managing it?
Since 22 March, I’ve been engaged full-time with myICUvoice and we’ve gotten a lot done! We’ve re-designed and rigorously tested the app for any bugs, and our software developers have built literally dozens of versions of the app to arrive at the current version. We’ve released it on the UK App Store and have decided to make it free for any patient that needs to use it, and we hope to have the resources to soon make it available globally. Anticipating a global reach, we’ve been busy translating the app into multiple different languages. We are also creating educational materials for the hospitals who want to use it. We’ve gotten a lot done, and we’re still going strong.
In this month and a half, myself and everyone involved with myICUvoice has been working full time as a project of passion: our work has been entirely pro-bono. We believe that myICUvoice will significantly improve the lives of ICU patients and nurses, and there is no time like the present to try to be a part of positive change in our local and global communities. In effect, this–this immense desire to do whatever I can to evoke positive change– is the exact same reason why I joined i-Teams in the first place: I believed in the goodness and the potential of the myICUvoice project and I wanted to use my skills and expertise to contribute to furthering the idea and making it a reality. I feel very grateful that i-Teams introduced me to a company where I could do this, and I’m glad to be continuing now.
The progress that our core team has made since March has been made possible by the help and support of 40+ volunteers: we are so grateful for the generousity being shown in these unprecedented times.
If you want to support myICUvoice, you can do so in a few ways. If you’re in the UK and have an iPad, visit www.myicuvoice.com to download it free from the App store: try it out, tell your friends about it, and consider reviewing it so that we can be found more easily by nurses and patients. If you work in an ICU and want to use myICUvoice in a hospital setting, get in touch with us at www.myicuvoice.com/contact. If you’d like to make a financial donation to allow the myICUvoice project to continue its focus and widen its reach, you can make a donation via Addenbrooke’s Charitable Trust. Using their dropdown menu “What Prompted You to Give” please specify that you would like to support the myICUvoice project. https://donate.act4addenbrookes.org.uk/helpyourhospital/
Core myICUvoice team members:
Dr. Timothy Baker | Founder
Nadya Pohran, PhD | Project Manager and UX Researcher
Mary-Ann & Phil Claridge (of Mandrel Systems) | Software Developers
Dr. Katy Surman | Medical Researcher and Project Assistant
Some recent press coverage about myICUvoice:
Cambridge doctor’s ground-breaking app gives ventilated COVID-19 patients a voice, Cambridge University Hospitals press release
App gives voice to COVID-19 patients on ventilators, Daily Mail
Last 8 minutes of Bloomberg Westminster
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire