A winner's story - We talk to the designers of BBH Award success story

Team behind Brain in Hand explain how they developed system that picked up a top prize at 2013 Building Better Healthcare Awards

The designers behind one of this year’s Building Better Healthcare Award-winning technologies have spoken exclusively to Jo Makosinski about the secret to their success

“We really love this concept, which encourages patients to remain independent, but to access any help and support they may need.”

This was the view of the 2013 Building Better Healthcare Awards judging panel as they chose Brain in Hand as the winner of the Award for Best Health Technology Product .

People with conditions such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects the executive function of the brain, can find responding to unexpected situations difficult, making them anxious and stressed

The secure online system helps people with conditions such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome to respond more effectively to situations that may normally leave them feeling stressed or anxious.

The technology was the brainchild of Andrew Stamp, chief executive of Brain in Hand, and Dr Tony Brown from the Autism Diagnostic Research Centre in Southampton.

Speaking to BBH editor, Jo Makosinski, after their success at the awards, Stamp said: “I have a son with autism and we ran a very effective intervention programme at home. As a result I was asked to be on a steering committee at the University of Southampton with clinical psychologist Dr Tony Brown which looked at early intervention for people with autism and Asperger’s.

“Dr Brown felt there was a major gap in the support system for adults with these conditions and he wanted to set up a system to manage diagnoses more effectively.

“If you are a child with this condition and you also have learning disabilities, then there is a lot of help available, but when you have something like Asperger’s, you don’t get that kind of support.

“Dr Brown looked into all the research and in his view one of the biggest challenges relates to the issue of decision-making among adults with this condition. If we could help people to make decisions or to cope in a more-effective way when something happens, then we could relieve some of that anxiety and stress.”

Stamp has worked in the field of organisation and systems implementation for many years, primarily within the life sciences sector, developed the concept that would eventually become Brain in Hand.

He said: “People with conditions such as autism and Asperger’s Syndrome, which affects the executive function of the brain, can find responding to unexpected situations difficult, making them anxious and stressed.

Using a secure online system, Brain in Hand allows people to work out responses to everyday tasks and potential problems

“Using a secure online system, Brain in Hand allows people to work out responses to everyday tasks and potential problems, with schedules built up covering everything from shopping and visiting friends, to work tasks or going to school or college.

“When situations or problems occur, people use their smartphone to access their potential solutions. Anxiety levels are monitored using a simple one-touch traffic light system – green, amber, red. High anxiety responses trigger then help from a mentor support team.”

Mobile smartphone technologies like Brain in Hand are becoming increasingly popular solutions as the health service is charged with providing better-quality care for less money. The market for such systems is expected to be worth $26billion by 2016.

Interest in Brain in Hand is already high, with a number of trusts and individuals already deploying the solution.

A prototype trial was also carried out involving students with Asperger\'s Syndrome at the University of Portsmouth in 2011, and was followed by a year-long trial with Devon Partnership NHS Trust.

Other organisations using Brain in Hand include the Isle of Wight NHS Trust and Devon Partnership NHS Trust. The company is also working with a number of schools and has launched a product to support students at university with autistic spectrum conditions, as well as for businesses that want to employ individuals on the autistic spectrum.

In addition, the team is considering how the system can be used more widely, including helping those with early-onset Alzheimer’s, mental health conditions, acquired brain injury or stroke.

Stamp said: “What has been so important about the trials is the feedback we have received from the people using Brain in Hand.

“People with Asperger’s are usually of normal or above normal intelligence, so have been forthcoming with feedback, which has allowed us to fine tune the solution so that it can benefit others who may not be so able.

“It’s about supporting these people and then, when they cannot cope or they need help, recognising this at the earliest opportunity and providing that help and support at the right time. This in turn makes it cost effective, which is a key consideration in current procurement decisions.”

“People love the technology and say it’s made a really positive difference to their lives – growing in confidence, becoming more sociable, and better able to hold down a job

David Pool, business development director at Brain in Hand, added: “With Brain in Hand, traditional clinical contact time is reduced and, because it builds a detailed record of responses, new coping strategies can be developed. That’s great for people, but it also means organisations, be they health trusts or companies supporting a diverse workforce, can review and improve the services and support they provide.”

Tom Pittwood is one of two people with autism employed at Brain Hand. He uses the system and told BBH : “People love the technology and say it’s made a really positive difference to their lives – growing in confidence, becoming more sociable, and better able to hold down a job.

“I use it because everyone has a bad day. Brain-in-Hand helps you deal with those days because you’ve already pre-solved your solutions in a calm, rational way. I guess it’s 21st-century outsourcing of the intricacies of your life ready for when the going gets tough.”

Companies