Blue Bird, a unique platform serving as a one-stop solution for palliative care wins Silver in the London Design Awards 2023.
A team of students from International Institute of Information Technology Hyderabad (IIITH) comprising Shambhavi Ojha, Anuj Malviya, Aniket Chandekar, Venkatsai Nadakudati, Vinaya Gopi and Dhiraj Shanmukha Mitra has bagged silver in the first season of London Design Awards 2023. True to its name, the Design Awards is an international competition that recognises exceptional design and outstanding creative projects from product designers, architects, interior designers, graphic designers, UI/UX designers, regardless of whether they are companies, freelancers, hobbyists or students. The submissions are evaluated across various categories such as architectural design, user interface design, packaging design, user experience design, product design, conceptual design, communication design, interior design, and service design. Judges score on criteria such as creativity of the idea, the objective, the visual or design, innovation and impact.
Democratising Access to Supportive Care
The IIITH team’s award winning submission in the Service Design for Health category is a solution to empower patients and families navigating the challenging journey of terminal illness. Named ‘Blue Bird’, the application aims to serve as a one-stop shop for all things palliative care. According to the team, the inspiration behind the solution lay in the abysmal access to palliative care services in India. “Only about 1% of the Indian population has access to palliative care services as opposed to the global average of 14%,” says Shambhavi, adding that awareness about it is also woefully inadequate. With care often misconstrued for cure, the platform aims to offer not only comprehensive resources and expert advice to help users gain a better understanding of their condition, but also provides a listing of available treatment options, and holistic approaches along with a compassionate community to help share experiences and provide emotional support.
Learnings From the PDM Program
With the exception of Dhiraj Mitra who is an M.S student from the Software Engineering Research Centre (SERC), the rest of the team members are students of the MTech Product Design and Management (PDM) course. The novel MTech program that straddles both engineering and management is an endeavour to create not mere engineers but “market-aware” technologists which is the need of the hour, according to Prof. Raghu Reddy, Head of SERC.
“The core courses of our MTech program that include Design Thinking led by Dr. Raman Saxena; User Research Methods taught by Dr. Priyanka Srivastava; Technology, Product and Entrepreneurship taught by Prof. Ramesh Loganathan, Prof. Prakash Yalla and Prof. Ravi Warrier, have played a key role in shaping the concept and success of Blue Bird at the international stage,” avers the winning team. While Design Thinking instilled empathy in tandem with the nuances of design itself, the User Research course provided the students crucial insights into research methodologies, and the Technology, Product and Entrepreneurship course enabled seamless connectivity, fuelling their passion for social impact. Speaking about the mentors without whom the win would not have been possible, the team says, “Dr. Nimmi Rangaswamy helped us immensely with her guidance and inputs in the research phase. On the technical front, the Software Engineering course by Dr. Raghu Reddy equipped us with the essential knowledge about software architecture and user interface design that was critical in the competition. And of course, Dr. Raghu’s unwavering support and guidance helped us immensely.”
Blue Bird stood out among other competing submissions thanks to its focus on human-centred design, creating a truly empathetic and personalised experience for patients and their families facing terminal illness. “We chose the name Blue Bird after giving it a lot of thought,” says Shambhavi. Palliative care had to be easy to access for anyone, anywhere, regardless of geographical location. “Hence the bird which is a symbol of freedom,” she explains, adding that the colour blue denotes trust and power. The app’s unique design aspect lies in seamlessly integrating emotional support with practical care, fostering a supportive community through peer connections, and empowering users to take control of their palliative care journey. Additionally, with the team’s aim from the very start to create actual impact and not just a theoretical design statement, the solution was presented at a Palliative Care Conference held at Basavatarakam Indo-American Cancer Hospital and Research Institute, Hyderabad. “It was very well received and appreciated by various palliative care experts and organisations that participated at the conference. Some of them even offered to implement it for their patients,” says the team. Signing off with the tagline of ‘promoting living well, until the end,” the group states that while winning laurels and gaining appreciation at the global level feels amazing, it’s more fulfilling to see the spotlight shine on an issue that has long been overlooked. The acknowledgement definitely validates the importance of palliative care and hopefully paves the way for much-needed attention, support and resources.