Digital innovations have the potential to transform health and care by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving patient experience and outcomes. DigitalHealth.London is a programme aiming to speed up the development and scaling of digital innovations across health and care, and to pioneer their adoption by the NHS. By matching innovators with demand, and supporting them to navigate the UK health environment, it helps improve patient and population outcomes and experience, support a sustainable NHS, and generate economic growth.
DigitalHealth.London was set up in response to the London Health Commission’s recomendation to put London at the centre of the global revolution in digital health by creating a “digital health hub”: a marketplace for digital health solutions, and a favourable environment to do business in. It is a collaboration delivered by MedCity, and London’s three Academic Health Science Networks – UCLPartners, Imperial College Health Partners, and the Health Innovation Network. It is supported by NHS England (London) and the Mayor’s Office.
James Somauroo Programme Director at DigitalHealth.London Accelerator explains the programme’s role. ‘The Accelerator is the first project of DigitalHealth.London, and the first of its kind. It draws upon several key founding and strategic partners, who together bring a rich and diverse collateral of resources and expertise across healthcare, research, innovation, digital health and tech. It works with 20-30 companies each year, providing tailored advice and support for their digital health innovation journey.
‘With ever-increasing pressures on health and care services, the Accelerator aims to lead companies into the complex world of NHS procurement; speeding up adoption of innovation and ensuring that patients benefit from emerging new technology, more rapidly.’
‘Each SME is assigned a Digital Health (NHS) Navigator,’ continues fellow director Hannah Harniess. ‘They will be an experienced professional from the NHS with the expertise to understand their needs and advise on product development and business models.’
Through this, the programme provides tailored support focusing on:
‘By doing this, we support companies to create, test, and scale innovations that increase efficiency and reduce costs in the NHS, and ultimately improve patient experience and outcomes,’ Hannah concludes.
James continues, ‘Some of our companies have had some fantastic successes. In the first year, innovations from our cohort of companies had strong uptake across the capital. These include Chelsea and Westminster Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, together with its charity CW+, which is trialling five digital health solutions including Medopad, a mobile device to monitor heart failure patients at home, and Physitrack, offering remote, video guidance for physiotherapy patients.
‘Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust expects to save £2.5 million each year by reducing missed appointments through DrDoctor’s appointment booking app, resulting in ‘no show’ rates falling by 40 per cent.’
Hannah takes up the story. ‘The London Ambulance Service has adopted Perfect Ward, cutting out medicines paperwork for faster ambulance care, which is now being implemented across over 70 ambulance stations in the capital. North West London Clinical Commissioning Groups are tackling diabetes through OurPath; a fitness wristband and 3G-connected weighing scales to provide clients with real-time updates to help tackle type-2 diabetes, which achieved an average 5.3kg weight loss in studies.’
What is their view on the role of digital innovations for the future of health and care in the NHS? What challenges might there be? What opportunities? ‘The health system is unsustainable in its current form,’ says Hannah. ‘We have very different population health needs in 2017 than we did when the NHS was born. While we have seen incredible advances in life expectancy and disease management, people are spending more years of their lives with preventable multiple conditions. This presents complex challenges for the system. Digital innovations have the potential to transform health and care by increasing efficiency, reducing costs, and improving patient experience and outcomes.
‘The ability to improve population health no longer lies within a large hospital, but relies on society addressing the multiple determinants of health outside of traditional healthcare interactions. Factors such as our social networks, housing, education, family, employment all play a huge role in determining our health outcomes.’
‘This is where digital technology provides real opportunity for transforming population health outcomes,’ James believes. ‘Digital can support people to manage their own health conditions through access to their personal data, remote monitoring and diagnostics, and through easy access to healthcare information and advice. It can support society to address wider lifestyle determinants of health, through supporting healthier lifestyles and connecting communities.
‘It is imperative that we move from an illness model of healthcare to a wellness approach. Using the capital within communities to support prevention of long term conditions. Technology can support our lifestyle choices, prompt behaviour change and ensure health information reaches those who can benefit the most. Moving from a deficit approach to health to an asset based approach.
‘As technology moves on and becomes more accessible, we think that we’ll see an increase in healthcare professionals and patients as disruptors, as they are on the ground, and have the ability to solve real problems. We also don’t see the digital health revolution ending in a flurry of gadgets, but in a networked, invisible system that keep patients safe and quality of care high, meaning a healthcare system where professionals can finally take their eyes off paperwork and put them on patients, with their time freed to deliver the standard of care that they desperately want to.’
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