Connected Nation - Interview: Lucy Yardley, University of Southampton

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Lucy Yardley pioneered the development of LifeGuide and the EPSRC-supported UBHave project. Her research addresses how best to both optimise user engagement with digital interventions and to integrate digital support for self-management of health with existing healthcare services.

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Lucy Yardley, University of Southampton

Ok, I'm here with LifeGuide, and LifeGuide is a set of unique software resources that allow people who are not programmers to develop behaviour change interventions, which means apps, websites and so on that are interactive, and help people change their behaviour to be more healthy or to manage their illness better.

We have a couple of the actual apps. We've got Power which is a weight management intervention that NHS Choices is thinking about rolling out, and we've also got Virus Defence which is to help people wash their hands more so that they won't spread infection during a pandemic, and Nice is keen to endorse that. Well the software has allowed us to develop so many different health applications. There are lots of public health ones; like physical activity to prevent dementia, and help with diabetes, and stop smoking, as well as weight management. We've also got lots of illness management ones, to help people deal with their cancer, back pain, high blood pressure - you name it.

So it's led to really, a huge explosion of applications and we've been trialling those, taking them through to show that they work, and we’ve started to publish them in journals such as the Lancet and now they're going to be taken up and disseminated nationally and internationally, for tens, hundreds of thousands really. Some of our use of software is very much the cutting edge, so for example we use the sensors on smartphones to work out what people are doing and then we can give them just in time advice that is adaptive and works out how their needs are changing, and gives them just the right advice for them at that particular time in a situation.

The general public have been biting our hand off for our interventions because they feel a need that isn't being met. So if you want expert advice is personalized for you in the convenience of your own home, 24 hours a day, you're going to have to get that from a digital source. And we're providing that, and they can't get that to the healthcare system, so there’s enormous enthusiasm from users for what we can provide.