Digital healthcare is particularly strong in Leeds, with the presence of NHS Digital in the City as well as plenty of companies working alongside it. One of the most prominent of those is mHabitat, and we spoke to its founder and Managing Director Victoria Betton about her business, her thoughts on the sector and her plans for the Leeds Digital Festival.
Victoria, like many entrepreneurs, is clearly no stranger to hard work. Talking to her about mHabitat, it’s clear that she doesn’t shy away from busy days and taking on challenges, especially when one considers exactly what her company does on a day-to-day basis.
“We do everything from early-stage discovery – so validating a question or hypothesis about how tech could help – to running co-design processes with patients and practitioners to design and develop technology,” she said. “We also help implement technology, and then we do some policy and strategy work as well, helping organisations understand how technology can help them across their business.”
All this is done with a team of just 14 people – as well as the company mascot, office dog Bibi – but mHabitat’s work is clearly of great importance to many in the digital health industry. “Our whole raison d‘etre is helping the NHS, the public sector and the third sector make good use of digital technologies to solve real-world problems and improve experience and outcomes for people accessing those services,” Victoria said.
The company has been going for around five years now, since Victoria founded it in 2014. With a background (and a PhD) in online social networks and mental health, she first utilised her experience to work with two NHS trusts in Leeds on implementing digital technologies, from which mHabitat was born.
Victoria and mHabitat have been commissioned by the City of Leeds to run the Health and Care theme for the Leeds Digital Festival, which is no small task. “We’re running around 20 events on behalf of the City, looking at all aspects of digital technology within the public sector,” Victoria said.
These cover a wide range of subject areas. Victoria described the topics as “everything from digital inclusion in relation to refugees and asylum seekers; through to the ethics of artificial intelligence; through to children, young people, digital technologies and mental health”.
As might be expected from such a varied programme, the events are targeted at a wide range of people as well. Primarily, they are aimed at “innovators who are interested in innovating in collaboration with the health and social care sector,” according to Victoria. However, those working with patients and citizens in this industry will benefit too, as well as the patients and citizens themselves.
As mentioned above, this was something Victoria was asked to do by the City. “The health and social care sector were really excited about running a whole load of events as part of the Digital Festival, because it shines a light on all the good work that’s happening in the City,” she said.
“It enables us to engage with the digital sector who want to collaborate with the City, and it brings in all our national partners such as NHS Digital and NHS England. It’s a real celebration of digital health and social care.”
Working as she does at the forefront of the sector in Leeds, Victoria has a good perspective on what the future holds for digital healthcare. “There’s a really bright future for health technology in Leeds because there’s such an emphasis and focus on it and there’re huge amounts of possibility,” she said.
However, this is not without its challenges, and they’re challenges mHabitat is set up to meet. “What we’re trying to help the sector do is to pay attention to how you implement technology in real-world settings in practice, taking patients and practitioners with you, and avoiding excluding people who are more disadvantaged,” Victoria said.
Being part of the Leeds Digital Festival has helped with this. “It’s a really exciting time when everybody all comes together within the sector to focus on the use of digital technology within the City,” said Victoria. “It’s a great way to attract people to come in and be part of something bigger.”
A key part of this is collaboration with other sectors, and Victoria wants people from all walks of life to come along to the Festival and see how they could be interacting with the digital healthcare sector.
If you’re in Leeds, join in with one of the many events mHabitat is helping to run to see how you can get involved. More details on their website – wearemhabitat.com