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Top digital award for network helping people with kidney disease

Thursday 5 July 2018

AN ONLINE support network which has changed the lives of people with kidney disease has won an award for digital innovation.

The Greater Manchester Kidney Information Network (GMKIN) won the Best Tech For Good Project at the Big Chip Awards, beating off competition from major players in the world of digital technology.

The network was set up in 2013 by University of Salford academics Dr Cristina Vasilica, Lecturer/Researcher and Prof Paula Ormandy, Professor in Long Term Conditions, along with the Hope and MRI Kidney Patient Associations.

The scheme, initially funded by Kidney Care UK and British Renal Society, and supported by Kidneys for Life, involved creating one of the first projects of its kind in the country enabling hundreds of patients to provide each other with advice, support and develop digital skills.

Advice for patients

The site managed by kidney patient Rob Finnigan, enables patients to register blogs, add comments and ask each other questions.  

Clinicians have joined patients providing blogs and useful information, including articles about diet, developments at local hospital and active research projects.

Patient activation, isolation, mental health issues and access to information remain a significant challenge for health and social care. Using social media the scheme achieved continuous capacity building, through mentorship and empowerment of patient leaders, encouraged self-belief, increased patient involvement and strengthened the kidney community online and offline. It now forms one of the ‘go to’ sites for information and support for kidney care in Greater Manchester.

Making positive changes

The network demonstrates how digital and social media can be used as a support mechanism to empower patients to making positive changes to their lives to achieve better outcomes. Working with Funplace2b Digital a local business, managed by Kathy Fenton helped create a sustainable and flexible system to allow growth and franchise the network nationally.

With vision, the right support and a lot of commitment you can achieve things you could only dream of.

Rob Finnigan said:  “On an evening when we we’re delighted just to be nominated, the surprise when we were announced as winners of the highly contested Best Tech for Good category quickly gave way to a realisation that with vision, the right support and a lot of commitment you can achieve things you could only dream of.”

Dr Cristina Vasilica said: “I am so proud to have received this award, and the team deserve the recognition for such a great sustainable innovation. We are improving the lives of kidney patients by just providing them with the opportunity to talk to, and support each other.

“We are seeking larger investment to transfer and replicate what we do nationally and internationally,across disease groups to increase the impact to a wider audience.”

Peer-to-peer support 

Prof Paula Ormandy said: “The past decade has noted an enormous surge of technologies that change the way we live, with a transformative impact within health and social care. 

“Behind all technologies, there are people. The peer-to-peer support networks for health, research and education are growing in relationships and diversity. The online road to success—while worth every step—is long and it requires perseverance,creativity, and a social network of inspirational people.”