Hydracare – Idea to IP sale

Hydracare was a project which aimed to reduce dehydration in hospitals and care homes – a problem sadly still poorly addressed. It started while at university and the patent/surrounding IP was eventually sold in 2012.

I came across the problem of dehydration after obliterating my foot in a climbing accident that required me to spend 8 days in a French hospital. After leaving the hospital with a rucksack and directions to where I could purchase crutches & injections I was prescribed to inject myself with – I made my way to Paris and hitched a lift back to the UK where I started to research my injury with the precision of someone who has a 30% chance of not walking properly again and with a job that was not taking up all of my time.

If you break your Talus in half there is a chance the bone will die causing you life-long problems.

I cannot remember where, but there in an online medical forum a woman was writing about how her husband, after under going reasonably significant surgery almost died from dehydration – which caused further surgery to be carried out at (I think) a loss of a limb. Again after that operation he became dehydrated and further complications ensued. All the man needed was water on a regular basis – but somehow this was not being administered.

It turns out that dehydration can significantly slow the progress of recovery, and if serious can cause further complications. In need of a project for university and sensing I was on a rich vein I Googled ‘Dehydration problem’ which I suspect today will have people asking the same questions and pointing out the same issues.

Dehydration is a big problem – especially with the elderly.

My research at the time shown the dehydration problem to cost 80,000 bed days in the UK alone (one bed day is estimated to cost £600+) and costs even more through dehydration caused illnesses and accidents. In the US, Medicare paid out over half a billion dollars for patients diagnosed with dehydration, in one year; dehydration is a global problem.

 Elderly patients often don’t want to drink due to poor thirst mechanism, water is often changed by cleaning staff and, with nurse shift changes it is currently very difficult to monitor patient water consumption. The elderly, especially, need constant reminding and monitoring, if the carers don’t notice a patient not drinking, within a short time it can lead to a long hospital stay, from which many never fully recover.

 In hospitals dehydration causes post surgery complications and can reverse a patients condition, again it’s very hard to prevent. If hospitals used this product it could save millions of pounds just from bed-days saved resulting from improved recovery rates.

 At home the elderly need to be reminded to drink, staying hydrated prevents dizziness (caused by low blood volume) and falls upon standing. Elderly with care support could be given independence for longer preventing them from having to move in to nursing homes.

Project..

As a Brunel Industrial Design student – for me it was important to build a product of some kind. These days, if I wanted to make a tangible difference I would probably lean towards lobbying and trying to change how dehydration is viewed on a legislative level. Either way I designed a product and through entering competitions IKB Awards I was able to get low-cost access to a Patent Attorney who patented they key basis of the product; a drinks container with a monitoring and alarm means.

Hydracare simply reminds patients to drink and alerts staff if too little water is consumed. The product can be used in hospitals and care homes as a bed side unit, or can be used by the elderly in the home potentially with family, day carers or the elderly person themselves using the devices’ feedback. In a care setting carers are able to identify those who are not drinking within one day; preventing serious problems and possible legal action from the patient’s family. The design was shaped with significant input by care professionals with the aim for it to be a simple and inclusive design although admittedly it is fairly over-engineered from a commercial/production point of view.

The project I won a few competitions including a Medical Futures Innovation Award a grant from UnLtd and a couple other minor cash wins (IKB Award, Bright Ideas Award, Reliance Prize of Prizes Award) which in the most part went on the project or went into future ideas.

Dehydration Prevention

I could have moved faster on the product – but it took several months before the Tech Transfer department at Brunel renounced their claim to 75% of my IP; a ridiculous practice considering I am a fee payer not an employee – I was pissed off to say the least. After University, and a bit of travel, I made attempts Continue reading “Hydracare – Idea to IP sale”

Why prison design is important

My key points for the importance of prison design are based around the fact that we have an outrageously high reoffending rate (75%+) and through studies people have shown that this can be much, much lower.

Rationale;

  • If Prisons and more importantly Prison Systems are well designed and well managed it can significantly reduce reoffending
  • The public will not accept Prisons that are not Prisons in a traditional sense and for that reason politicians will not propose such designs to the UK voter base; we need to design prisons that are Prisons in a traditional sense on the face of things while being very progressive in every other way; this is a constraint of our times which may change over the coming decades
  • The design of the physical architecture and super structure needs to be designed in conjunction with all the systems that operate within; structure and physical design changes coupled with system changes can cause large knock-on effects that alter core design and management constraints

The problem

The UK prison system has wide ranging problems that are very difficult to address within the existing system.

The long-term poor management of the prison system from the ‘top down’ means that there has been little structured improvement over the past twenty years and certainly no improvement with real vision. There has been poor spread of best-practice and prisons operating independent to each other and politicians who are either too lazy or too afraid to bring change to a sector where strong unions and a change-resistive civil service can make significant change very difficult to effect.

With a 75%+ reoffending rate, prisons are clearly not effective enough and this in turn causes society significant problems and costs an estimated £11bn each year through the cost of reoffending. The UK prison population has been growing steadily, and as the rate of reoffence is a key driver of an increased accumulation of prisoners it is clear that something can be done better.

Rising prison populations puts stress on all parts of a system that has its budgets frequently reduced which, in turn, creates a more disaffected and lower paid work force. Prison overcrowding forces Continue reading “Why prison design is important”