Innovation and collaboration: utilising innovative technology to improve patient care

In July 2017, the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee launched an inquiry into Life Science and the Industrial Strategy. The inquiry aims to investigate issues such as whether the government has the necessary structures in place to support the life sciences sector; how the NHS can use procurement to stimulate innovation and the content of the new life sciences industrial strategy, once published.

An independent report, Life sciences: industrial strategy, written by Professor Sir John Bell, provides recommendations to government on the long-term success of the life sciences sector.

Written in collaboration with industry, academia, charity, and research organisations, the report is organised into seven themes:

  • Health Advanced Research Programme (HARP) proposal
  • Reinforcing the UK science offer
  • Growth and infrastructure
  • NHS collaboration
  • Data
  • Skills
  • Regulation

The report pays particular attention to biopharmaceuticals, medical technology, genomics, diagnostics and digital health.

Collaboration

Collaboration is strong theme that runs through the report. Better patient care via use of innovative technology is indeed dependent upon collaboration between patients, their families and medical professionals.

From our recent conversations with those at the front line – including medical professionals, CEOs of medical technology companies and patients - it is clear that there is a shift towards digital innovation.

The opportunity of integrated care via new technologies should be welcomed. It provides both scope for better patient experience and also scope to analyse data —with the consent of patients — for the good of those who have yet to become patients.

What we mean by such opportunity is the increasing:

  • Presence of technology companies with software and innovative products that seek to provide faster, better, cheaper healthcare for all.
  • Willingness of the healthcare providers, from the NHS right through to pharmaceutical giants, to trial, adopt and utilise such technologies and innovation.

Adopting technology

NHS resources are finite. The adoption of technology platforms that seek to improve clinical services, deliver better patient safety and drive up operational efficiency is being seen as a must do.

Much like the technology incubators or accelerator programmes of Shoreditch or Silicon Valley, the NHS has recently carved out something similar.

NHS England’s Clinical Entrepreneur Programme allows NHS clinicians to come forward with their innovations and supports them in turning them from concept to product with business training, mentoring and connection to investment sources.

The NHS Innovation Accelerator helps innovative products and technologies — once launched — gain traction to grow. Partnered with NHS Trusts, innovations can be tested, put to use and the process of learning in a live environment can be undertaken.

Two examples of innovative technology companies making headway are:

  • Patient Journey App: a platform and application that allows medical professionals to create and share aftercare plans electronically with patients via a smartphone or tablet. This allows the medical professional to send users/patients interactive ‘push notifications’ about the next steps in their treatment. We believe that empowering patients to get on with their lives free of inpatient care — providing this is carefully managed — is surely a good thing.
  • Medopad: allows doctors to monitor chronic, high-dependency patients in real time but outside of hospital, via iPads and tablet devices. This level of monitoring is available throughout admission to discharge. Such technology allows healthcare organisations to save resources and seeks to reduce errors. We feel this can lead to targeted patient care, with key health information available at the right time, with the opportunity for guidance to be provided swiftly and efficiently.

Data capture

Numerous possibilities for further innovation open up when you consider what can be done with the data such technologies can capture. If Medopad can tell us the vital signs of a patient from outside of hospital, think what could be done with that data to better prepare the hospital for a critical patient upon arrival.

If a Patient Journey App can tell us that those between the ages of 30 to 50 are the least likely to adhere to follow-up appointments, think what can be done with that data at a national level.

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So where next?

We now know of Google Deepmind’s Health project, which is looking to apply machine learning to ‘mine’ medical records in order to provide better and faster health services and diagnostics.

In addition, ‘chatbots’, a computer program which conducts a conversation via auditory or text methods can apply ‘machine learning techniques’, which could assist with patient triaging.

Finally, we observe, blockchain, which has an ability to keep secure data in a distributed, encrypted ledger and can control who has access to that ledger, as an obvious area for further exploration. Particularly with regard to its application to electronic patient record systems.

A promising and exciting future awaits…