Fizzyo

Finalist category: Digital Health Award

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Digital Health Award, Winner, 2017

Gaming technology that stopped the nagging

“Imagine spending hours of your day, every day, battling with your teenage kids to do their physiotherapy. While others play video games, you are telling yours ‘no you can’t go game with your friends – you have to come and do your physio’. For 15 years,” asked mum Vicky Coxhead.

Both of Vicky Coxhead’s sons have Cystic Fibrosis and because of this they have to do regular physio to keep infections at bay.

Spotting an advert for a new BBC2 documentary asking for families with a problems to get in touch, Vicky decided she’d try anything. So she sent in her request asking for help to stop her having to nag her sons. She was introduced to Haiyan Zhang, who volunteered to help.

Haiyan works as Innovation Director at Microsoft Research in Cambridge. She had just had her first child and immersed herself in Cystic Fibrosis – something she knew nothing about. She enlisted the help of Creative Technologist Greg Saul to create a device that could take the boys’ breaths and turn them into controls for a videogame. Together, with Lee Stott at Microsoft UK, they organised hackathons where volunteer designers and engineers from across the UK came along to make new video game experiences for the Coxhead boys.

“To summarise, because this innovation is fun my boys want to do their physio. That’s improved family life because I don’t have to nag. Because this innovation is competitive my boys put much more effort into their physio – keeping them healthier.”

There are over 10,000 people who have CF in the UK. There’s no cure. Preventing infection prolongs life and, physiotherapy treatment, is the best route to that.

At the moment Project Fizzyo is being used by the Coxhead boys. Since the BBC’s Big Life Fix programme aired, the Fizzyo team has been growing and continuing to work hard to develop this technology. By teaming up with Professor Eleanor Main and her colleagues at the UCL Physiotherapy department and Great Ormond Street Hospital, the team are now developing Fizzyo to be trialled with 100 homes around the UK, to study the long-term efficacy of physiotherapy treatment.

Vicky says she is excited about the potential of this technology to help other families too.

“My family already has free access to this great innovation and we continue to work with Haiyan who continues to improve the tech and the games that accompany it.”