Professor Gillian Hayes can often be found outside the confines of the ivory tower, talking with people about their experiences and involving them in her research. “For me, the point of design is to improve people’s lives. We can’t do that without involving them in the process.” Using innovative new research methods she designed specifically to engage the community, Professor Hayes has been able to make headway addressing difficult questions in areas as diverse as autism, asthma, premature infancy and cancer.
Putting Technology to Work
Professor Hayes’ commitment to community-based research goes well beyond engaging them in the creation of new technology. “It is not enough to provide the technology with the hope that people will use it,” she notes. “You have to take the next step.” In her work on autism, for example, she not only develops new solutions collaboratively with people living with autism, but she also runs training sessions for parents and community members and works closely with schools to ensure sustained use — successfully transitioning her innovations from the lab into everyday practice.
Better Patients and Caregivers
As healthcare increasingly moves from costly, uncomfortable clinics into the home, technology facilitates the connection between patients, caregivers and clinicians. Yet, as Professor Hayes observes, “Current health technologies don’t handle children very well. They miss the complexity of a rapidly evolving patient and all of the concerns that surface when treating patients who may not be able to speak for themselves.” Some of Professor Hayes’ solutions to these problems are now commercial products in use across the country — showcasing how technology can pave the way for greater parental involvement, improved communication with clinicians and, ultimately, more positive health outcomes for complex pediatric patients.