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Towards ‘Hospices Without Walls’; How Could Human Centred Design and Robotics facilitate ‘Enhanced Independence’ and ‘Alternative Access’ in Future Palliative Care Scenarios?

Project Description

1. Motivation
By 2040, 160,000 more people in England and Wales will need palliative care, provided the current mortality trends continue. This means an increase of 42.4% in palliative and end-of-life care needs, within the next 20 years. The urgent need for well-designed technologically enhanced health and care solutions, towards the end of life, is inevitable. Hospices are one main avenue for provision of palliative and end-of-life care. However, they are deemed expensive and essentially unsustainable in current form, especially in the face of the growing demand.

Where and how could a symbiosis of Robotics and Human Centred Design facilitate alternative and novel future hospice care scenarios - focusing on ‘enhanced independence’ and ‘alternative access’?

2. Research Challenge
Marie Curie is a registered charitable organisation in the United Kingdom, providing care and support for people living with terminal illness and their families, since 1948. Marie Curie has nine hospices across the country and provides the largest number of hospice beds outside the NHS.

Responding to growing demand and unsustainable current provision costs across the Palliative care sector, Marie Curie are keen to explore alternative future models such as ‘Hospices Without Walls’; allowing for monitoring and support of patients in alternative and enhanced settings. Having conducted a preliminary study, Marie Curie is interested in further investigating robotics and human centred design. Primary avenues include:
A. Predicting needs and triggers for services
[robotics: active and passive data capture]
B. Monitoring and support of patients in alternative settings including home and care homes
[robotics: wearable assistive, social and therapeutic, ambient care]
C. Enhancing the care for those who do access hospices directly
[robotics: wearable assistive, virtual and mixed reality, ambient care]

3. Problem Statement
Most hospices in the UK are cutting beds and other services, others are closing altogether. The major problem for the hospice sector is that it is expensive and essentially unsustainable in current form, especially in the face of the growing demand described above. Alternative and enhanced scenarios of hospice care are needed with a key focus on ‘improving independence’, and ‘redefining access’. Accordingly, two research questions are outlined, focusing on Robotics and Human centred design, in developing the concept of ‘Hospice without Wall’:

Research Question 1. How might we enable people to remain as independent as possible, for as long as possible, using robotics in new sustainable hospice care scenarios?

Research Question 2. How might we extend future hospice care beyond the building and into the community, using robotics?

The University of Liverpool Doctoral Network in Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Future Digital Health aims at creating and maintaining a community of AI health care professionals that can develop and apply AI research to medical problems, see
The vision is to provide a high-quality doctoral training within the broad domain of AI (including Machine Learning, Data Science and Statistics) for medical applications from health care to drug design. The weekly 3-hour training sessions include various topics from Statistics and Linear Algebra to guest lectures on AI and healthcare, see New students starting in October 2020 will join our first cohort of 8 PhD students who have started in October 2019.

Each PhD project has been carefully co-created in collaboration with a health care provider and/or a commercial partner working with medical data so that the outcomes of the PhD research will have immediate benefit. The network will provide students with regular training and internship opportunities at industry partners.

Applications are welcome from enthusiastic candidates with at least a 2:1 degree in Design, Palliative care, or in a similar area close to the proposed PhD research. The available funding is strictly limited to UK citizens.

This is a novel and exciting topic and we are seeking high calibre and enthusiastic candidates. A strong background in design is essential. Background in palliative and end-of-life care, AI, and/or healthcare design and innovation is desirable. The candidate will be expected to quickly develop skills in academic writing, specifically journal paper publications.

To apply for this opportunity, please visit: ’Applications should be made to a PhD in Engineering.

Funding Notes

This project is funded by the University of Liverpool through the doctoral network AI for Future Digital Health contributing a stipend of £15,285 per year, View Website. The funding is restricted to UK students.


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