Innovation and changeGovernment TechnologyPatients to benefit from digital health tech innovations

Patients to benefit from digital health tech innovations

Innovative digital technology projects will use AI, machine learning, hand-held devices, and portable brain imaging technology to improve patient benefits

Digital Health Technology Catalyst (DHTC) will be receiving £9m of government funding to put towards innovative digital technology projects.

Funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF), its primary aim is to accelerate the development of digital health innovation. It also aims to ensure that the UK remains at the leading-edge of innovative healthcare. It is delivered by UK Research and Innovation.

The DHTC has 117 projects involving 143 companies across the UK. Advancing digital health innovation will enable improved patient outcomes, improved access to healthcare, and also transform service delivery of current and new treatments.

Devices and imaging technology

One of the projects receiving funding allows clinicians to observe patients digitally through hand-held devices. Rugby-based OpusVL developed eObs, a device can then send an automatic alert to specialists or consultants if patients are identified as at risk. This can shorten the length of stay, reduce transfers within hospitals, and reduce ICU referrals. The system also gives ward managers and bed managers a view of the workload across their area of responsibility, so that they can deploy the right people on the right ward, at the right time.

Another project has developed a device to treat obstructive sleep apnoea. Apnoea is a condition where the muscles and soft tissues in the throat relax and collapse, blocking the airways for 10 seconds or more during sleep. This can cause long-term health problems. Leicester-based Snoozeal has developed this device along with the University of Loughborough. The device contracts muscle at the rear of the tongue through a 20-minute daily toning regime of mild electric pulses. It aims to be connected to an intelligent platform to collect biosensor data of tongue tone, which will be classified by machine learning and AI-based to deliver personalised treatment regimes.

The project by Mind over Matter MedTech will be funded to trial novel, low-cost and portable brain imaging technology. The Kent-based company is working with Wessex Academic Health Science Network. This aims to test patients personalised risk for developing dementia in a non-invasive manner, and at least a decade before any clinical symptoms would appear. This could help reduce the chance of a cycle of irreversible neuronal death

Machine learning and AI

A Glasgow-based project is receiving funds for helping with target specific clinical outcomes. Red Star Consulting Ltd is applying machine learning to analyse clinical notes recorded in the electronic health record of diabetes patients. Based on the patient’s clinical notes, the machine learning models predict the risk of different clinical endpoints such as heart attack or death. It presents this information to the clinician as a score or alert. Clinicians can use this to tailor consultations, identify high-risk patients, and target specific clinical outcomes.

AI-based project will also get funded. Working with the University of Oxford, Ufonia will deploy AI-driven voice technology to call patients and have a fully autonomous, natural conversation, to assess their health status against specified criteria. In live clinical use, the technology will assess the health of nearly 1000 patients who have had cataract surgery at a large NHS hospital Trust over 6 months

NHS efficiencies

The DHTC is an important element of the government’s plans to implement the Accelerated Access Review. It aims to address some of the challenges that the review identified around the development of innovative digital technology. In short, it aims to help grow the digital health sector.

The funding is targeted at SMEs to promote a vibrant and varied industry of innovative digital technology with the potential to significantly change care pathways and to improve patient outcomes and create NHS efficiencies.

Science and Innovation Minister Chris Skidmore said: “From using AI-driven voice technology to assess patient’s health before seeing a doctor, to hand-held devices which observe health status and alert clinicians to treat high-risk patients, we are taking steps to ensure people are healthier for longer while saving the NHS money.

“These advances in technology, across the UK, demonstrate our modern Industrial Strategy in action by harnessing the power of innovation to help meet the needs of an ageing society, and creating the high skilled jobs of the future.”

Ian Campbell, Interim Executive Chair, Innovate UK, for UK Research and Innovation, said: “The UK is a world leader in health innovation and the projects for which we have announced funding today showcase the very best of British knowhow. Using breakthrough technologies such as AI and machine learning and deploying apps and hand-held devices, outcomes for patients can be immeasurably improved. Supporting these innovations is a key element of the government’s Industrial Strategy and will create the industries and jobs of tomorrow.”

The NHS has made the commitment that in the coming years every patient will be able to access digital primary care services, under a digitally enabled NHS.

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