Plymouth University students help with NHS digital innovation

University of Plymouth Business School

Published: 28 January 2022

Two postgraduate students from Plymouth University are currently working on digital innovation projects with clinicians from Torbay and South Devon NHS Foundation Trust (TSDFT) to help improve services for patients.

Summer Ashbury and Kyra Boyle are part of the School of Art, Design and Architecture, iMayflower Virtual Internship Scheme, and will be on placement until summer 2022. During this time, they will be developing new interactive technology to help with patient rehabilitation and to help reduce anxiety for younger people accessing healthcare services.

Kyra’s project involves developing a virtual reality tool and app to help alleviate anxiety young people who are in crisis. She says of her placement: “The technology I am working on will help adolescents who have presented at a hospital during a time of crisis and then return for follow up appointments and need to navigate around the building, which can be daunting.

“By using this virtual technology, they will familiarise themselves with routes around the hospital and have access to tools such as a 360 degree ward walk through and an avatar to help direct them and their families. This should help lower anxiety levels. If they are feeling overwhelmed and need to take time out, they will also be guided to a breakout area. It is great to be part of such a ground breaking project which will help young people during a difficult time in their life. It is also giving me tangible work experience in a healthcare setting, which helps with my career progression.”

Summer’s placement will help support people with their rehabilitation following their time in intensive care and she says: “My project involves working with a clinician, who supports patients in intensive care. I am working with recovery groups to gain insight into how immersive virtual reality experiences can provide an escape for patients from a traditionally clinical environment. It is amazing to have this opportunity which could make such a positive difference to people’s lives. I am also developing new skills and meeting professionals from lots of different from teams across the organisation, which all helps with my learning.”

Both internships are part of TSDFT’s Digital Futures Programme, a new and innovative programme being developed for the benefit of TSDFT patients and the wider community. It is jointly being led by Nick Peres, Head of Digital Technologies at TSDFT and Advisor for Immersive Technologies at Health Education England; and Miss Jacqueline Rees-Lee, Consultant Plastic and Oncoplastic Breast Surgeon, and Director of Medical Education at TSDFT.

Nick says: “We are currently exploring the potential that digital immersive technologies can bring to healthcare settings. Being able to partner with local education providers to help build on this work and research is extremely beneficial for all parties. Both of these projects are providing opportunities to improve our patients’ experiences when they access our services. I have been very impressed with both Kyra and Summer who have made a great start and I am looking forward to seeing how their creativity, efforts and learning are put into practice to improve healthcare experiences in our organisation.”

Jacqui adds: “Kyra and Summer’s projects are part of our Digital Futures Program which involves digital technology innovation, developed in conjunction with staff, for the benefit and improvement of patient care in both Torbay Hospital and our community settings. They have achieved a lot already and I am excited to see the outcomes of their hard work. These projects are really exciting and a continuation of our journey to use digital innovation to bring about tangible improvements for our patients and staff.”

Kyra and Summer are both currently undertaking a MRes Digital Art and Technology at Plymouth University. It is an interdisciplinary, research-focused programme designed for artists, interaction designers, musicians, game developers and innovators to develop their own practice. It nurtures innovation and experimentation by challenging the boundaries of digital arts and creative media practice across traditional disciplines.