Fast Company

Could Oversharing Save the Lives of Seniors?

A new device lets long-term-care patients broadcast their moods via Facebook and Twitter.

Buddy Radio

People who chart their emotional ups and downs on Facebook and Twitter are generally considered over-sharers, but what if those status updates could help save your life? That’s the idea behind the Buddy Radio, a concept from the U.K.-based social innovation company Sidekick Studios currently undergoing a 12-month trial with the U.K.’s National Health Service. The Buddy Radio helps patients with long-term mental and physical illnesses manage care by allowing them to broadcast their mood to a network of friends, family, and professional-care workers. Users simply turn a dial to the setting that best expresses their current state, and a message is transmitted to a range of social media platforms: email, text, Facebook, IM, Twitter, etc.

The benefits of Buddy are clear: For patients, it’s hoped the mere act of registering a mood as part of a daily routine will ease the stigma that’s often associated with reaching out for help. On the other side of the equation, it’s believed that increased awareness among caregivers “will help teams gauge when to intervene, or simply make contact,” say Sidekick’s designers. What’s more, by enlarging and enlightening each patient’s circle of care, the NHS could save an estimated $21 billion treating more patients at home and fewer at hospitals and walk-in centers. (Still, you wonder whether any health care system has the high-tech attentiveness to respond to this sort of technology--what keeps projects like these from being a way to forget seniors altogether?)

As Sidekick’s development blog points out, assisted tech could use both a makeover and an upgrade; most telecare devices are still of the "Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up" variety, and hardly any are Dieter Rams–inspired boxes able to blend seamlessly into the homes of aging baby boomers. So let's wait and see.

Follow along as the Buddy Radio’s technology is tested and tinkered with here.

 

 

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5 Comments

  • adil abrar

    hi, thanks for the comments. i'm the director at sidekick studios. the point sheena raises is interesting and something we tried to think about. we played around with making the conversation two-way, and including audio and video, but ultimately through the design work we did with users, we realised that the best role for the device is simply a prompt for real human interaction. By deliberately making it one-way, it means there is responsibility on the community to pick up the phone or pop round and visit, to do what you rightly point out is important, which is bring people together. hope that helps. love your continued feedback

  • GK Rowe

    I think it is great that there is work being done in healthcare technology that is patient-focused for enhanced care and recovery. I am concerned that the dial-your-mood will limit user options. I can see the benefit of social media in long-term healthcare - just wondering what the benefits a dial can provide from an experience design perspective?

  • Sheena Medina

    I would have to agree that long term care technology needs both a major makeover and upgrade, but I also wonder how effective this would be in increasing engagement and interaction. As Jill points out, reducing someone's moods to white noise from a radio puts us dangerously close to forgetting about these people altogether. It seems like it further cements their place an an afterthought. Perhaps a system that enables you to post video to the aforementioned social networks would help the audience connect better. Seeing something firsthand often has a more powerful impact. Does anyone else feel the same?

  • Sidekick Studios

    Sidekick here, thanks - great summary. Look forward to sharing the ups and downs with you as we go.