AstraZeneca has initiated a foray into the burgeoning field of health technology with the introduction of its new subsidiary, Evinova. Officially unveiled this past Monday (20th of November, 2023), Evinova is poised to redefine how clinical trials are conducted for biotechnology entities, pharmaceutical corporations, and Contract Research Organisations (CROs). By integrating digital health solutions, Evinova aims to significantly curtail the duration and financial outlay required in the medicine development process.
With Evinova’s debut, AstraZeneca has announced several key partnerships. CROs Parexel and Fortrea are set to incorporate Evinova’s digital services into their operations. Furthermore, Evinova is working in conjunction with Accenture and Amazon Web Services to bolster the adoption of its digital products globally and enhance the scalability of its digital offerings.
Evinova will concentrate on three primary service domains within the health-tech sector. First, it will provide unified trial solutions that streamline the collection of clinical trial data, incorporating innovative digitally-enabled endpoints. This data acquisition will be supported by connected medical devices and sensors both onsite at clinical trial locations and remotely in patients’ residences. These solutions aim to bolster telehealth practices, enable remote patient monitoring, and facilitate direct-to-patient medicine dispatches.
Secondly, Evinova is channelling state-of-the-art technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning to architect optimally structured clinical trials. This involves assessing and quantifying a multitude of trial characteristics, from environmental impact to patient experience implications.
Lastly, the portfolio management services offered by Evinova seek to provide clients with a comprehensive overview of their drug development portfolio across various stages. This is achieved through predictive algorithms that forecast crucial milestones and allow study leaders to identify and rectify deviations from planned trajectories.
Cristina Duran, Evinova’s newly appointed president, expressed confidence that this strategic move will significantly advance the digital health sector. The objective is to meet the digital solution needs of healthcare professionals and regulators across the pharmaceutical landscape, ultimately enhancing patient care.
This development aligns with AstraZeneca’s recognition of the digital health market’s potential, which is anticipated to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 13.6% from 2022 to 2032, reaching a valuation in excess of $900 billion by the end of the forecast period. Evinova stands as a testament to AstraZeneca’s adaptive innovation strategy, aiming to navigate and lead in the digital transformation era of healthcare.Read More
The latest Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) report throws light on the financial strains faced by health systems in member countries, driven by the allocation competition for public funds. The report, ‘OECD Health at a Glance 2023‘, unveils that healthcare expenditure in OECD nations represented 9.2% of GDP in 2022, a slight reduction from 9.7% in the previous year. This figure, though higher than pre-pandemic levels, saw a decline in 11 countries compared to 2019.
On average, health spending per person in OECD countries approached USD 5,000 in 2022, with the United States, Switzerland, and Germany leading the expenditure chart. In contrast, Mexico, Colombia, and Costa Rica marked the lower end of the spectrum. OECD Secretary-General Mathias Cormann highlighted the urgent need for health systems to provide more timely and cost-effective healthcare, especially in light of ageing populations and the residual impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on mental and physical well-being.
Cormann emphasised that digitising healthcare systems and embracing digital health technologies is crucial to enhance system efficiency and effectiveness, underscoring the economic and social necessity of accessible high-quality healthcare.
The ‘Health at a Glance 2023’ report focuses particularly on the role of digital health in revolutionising health systems, a process catalysed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite progress, there remains significant work to be done in digital health governance, as outlined by a policy checklist in the report.
Current health indicators reflect a society still grappling with the pandemic’s aftermath, with a general decline in life expectancy and ongoing mental and physical health challenges. The health and social care workforce is expanding, yet staffing shortages and deteriorating work conditions are raising concerns. Salary erosion due to inflation is another challenge, with several OECD countries witnessing stagnant or falling real wages in the healthcare sector over the past decade.
Cardiovascular diseases remain a leading cause of mortality, and nearly one-third of deaths could have been prevented with better healthcare interventions. Despite the widespread adoption of universal health coverage, financial barriers continue to make healthcare inaccessible for low-income groups, with the poorest often foregoing necessary care.
The pandemic has exacerbated waiting times for elective surgeries like hip and knee replacements, and while there has been some improvement, wait times are still generally above pre-pandemic levels. However, there have been gains in the quality of care, particularly in terms of safety and effectiveness, and a move towards more patient-centred healthcare is evident with safer prescribing practices in primary care.Read More
As winter approaches, the NHS is set to deploy artificial intelligence (AI) technology to identify patients at risk of hospitalisation, enabling community healthcare teams to provide preemptive care and alleviate the strain on Accident and Emergency (A&E) services. This initiative is part of a broader introduction of technological and data-driven solutions to enhance the NHS’s response to the seasonal increase in healthcare demands.
In Somerset, four GP practices have initiated a pilot programme using an AI system designed to identify registered patients with complex medical needs who are at heightened risk of hospital admission or those who seldom contact their GP. The system facilitates proactive outreach for health discussions. Subsequently, individuals identified as high-risk will be contacted by health coaches, nurses, or GPs. These healthcare professionals are equipped to offer an array of preventive services, which include the provision of food parcels for vulnerable patients, intensification of care to specialist doctors, implementation of preventative measures to reduce the risk of falls, or connection to local volunteer organisations to combat isolation.
Innovative use of AI in Buckinghamshire involves it being linked to electronic sensors on household appliances such as kettles and refrigerators. These sensors monitor changes in patients’ eating and drinking patterns, triggering alerts to a non-clinical Onward Care team. The team can address up to 95% of issues raised by interacting with patients directly, escalating clinical matters when necessary. Patients have the option to avail themselves of these community-based, practical support measures that not only offer monitoring but also assistance with household chores, shopping, and the provision of food parcels, which has been instrumental in preventing hospital readmissions among frail patients.
Some regions in Birmingham are trialling a different approach, employing an algorithm that forecasts the top 5% of individuals at risk of potential A&E visits or hospital admissions. The team conducts wellness checks to offer social care assessments, medication reviews, or other community support initiatives to circumvent A&E admissions. Over the upcoming two years, this programme aims to prevent approximately 4,500 non-essential A&E visits, reduce overnight hospital stays by 17,000, and liberate around 23,000 GP appointments for other patients.
These innovative measures are being implemented in the context of an NHS already under significant pressure, with recent data indicating that A&E departments experienced their busiest October on record, while ambulance services reported the highest monthly demand witnessed this year. The NHS has been diligently preparing for winter, guided by the urgent and emergency care recovery plan published earlier in the year. The plan includes strategies to augment capacity and fortify resilience across the NHS, such as the establishment of care ‘traffic control’ centres to expedite patient discharges, the provision of additional ambulance hours, and the increase of available beds.
The NHS has also been expanding its globally acclaimed virtual ward programme, achieving its target of establishing 10,000 virtual ward beds by the end of September. These virtual wards allow patients to receive hospital-grade care in the familiar surroundings of their own homes, surrounded by family, friends, and carers.
Amanda Pritchard, NHS Chief Executive, commended the suite of technological and data solutions being introduced: “These advances demonstrate the innovative spirit of NHS staff across the nation, who are leveraging the latest technology and AI to provide patient care and significantly reduce unnecessary A&E visits. Not only are these strategies more beneficial for patients, who can receive care in the comfort of their homes, but they also support the NHS, especially as we anticipate an incredibly challenging winter season.”
Chris Holt, Chief Transformation Officer at Birmingham Community Healthcare NHS FT, emphasised the crucial role of data and AI in healthcare delivery: “Intelligently using data and harnessing AI is now essential in aiding our most vulnerable patients. Identifying those at greatest risk of hospitalisation during the winter allows us to intervene earlier with tailored support.”
In preparation for the winter season, the NHS recently launched its annual 111 campaign to encourage the use of NHS 111 services for urgent, non-life-threatening medical advice. The campaign, which will run until the end of March across various media platforms, informs the public about accessing advice from a range of NHS professionals, including clinicians, nurses, and GPs, all from the convenience of their homes. However, in emergencies that are life-threatening, the campaign reiterates the importance of calling 999.Read More
The trajectory of medicine is being redefined by pioneering research into computational models, advancing towards a future where medical treatments are tailored not to the average patient, but to each individual. Envision possessing a ‘digital twin’—a virtual counterpart that can undergo trials and treatments, sparing you the need for direct medication or surgical intervention. Scientists project that within the next decade, we could witness the routine use of ‘in silico’ trials, utilising virtual organs to evaluate drug safety and effectiveness, while bespoke organ models might be employed to customise patient care and avert medical complications.
Digital twins represent sophisticated computer-generated replicas of physical entities or processes, continuously refined with data from their actual counterparts. In the medical realm, this entails the fusion of extensive biological data—including genetic, proteomic, cellular, and systemic information—with individual patient data to craft detailed virtual models of their organs, and potentially, in time, their entire body.
Professor Peter Coveney, Director of the Centre for Computational Science at University College London and co-author of ‘Virtual You’, suggests that much of current medical practice lacks a scientific underpinning. He compares it to navigating by looking in the rear-view mirror—basing treatment for the patient at hand on historical cases. “A digital twin utilises your own data within a model that encapsulates your unique physiology and pathology. It’s a move away from decisions based on potentially unrepresentative population data to truly personalised medicine,” explains Prof. Coveney.
Cardiology is at the forefront of this cutting-edge model. Companies are already harnessing patient-specific heart models to aid in the design of medical devices. Meanwhile, the Barcelona-based enterprise ELEM BioTech is at the forefront, granting companies the capability to test drugs and devices on simulated human hearts. “We’ve conducted numerous virtual human trials on several compounds and are on the cusp of launching a new phase, with our cloud-ready product accessible to pharmaceutical clients,” shares Chris Morton, co-founder and CEO of ELEM.
At the recent Digital Twins conference hosted by the Royal Society of Medicine in London, Dr. Caroline Roney from Queen Mary University of London detailed the development of tailored heart models which could significantly aid surgeons in planning interventions for atrial fibrillation patients. “Surgeons typically resort to average-based approaches, but crafting patient-specific predictions that forecast long-term outcomes remains a formidable challenge,” Dr. Roney stated. She foresees widespread application of this technology in cardiovascular treatments, including decisions on valve selection and placement during replacements.
The field of oncology is also poised to benefit from digital twins. Teams from GSK and King’s College London are joining forces to construct virtual duplicates of patient tumours, amalgamating imaging, genetic, and molecular data with 3D cultures of cancer cells, and observing their drug responses. Leveraging machine learning, researchers can foresee how individual patients may react to various treatments, drug combinations, and dosages. “Conducting repetitive trials on a real patient with multiple treatments isn’t viable. Our aim is to devise a strategy while the patient is still with us, preparing us for any recurrence of cancer,” said Professor Tony Ng from King’s College.
The advent of digital twins extends even to the realm of pregnancy, offering the potential to develop treatments for conditions such as placental insufficiency or pre-eclampsia, and deepening our grasp of pregnancy and labour physiology. Professor Michelle Oyen, Director of the Center for Women’s Health Engineering at Washington University in St Louis, is crafting placenta models from ultrasound scans and post-birth high-resolution imagery to predict complications during pregnancy. “We’re striving to identify measures in a live person that could forewarn us of placental issues, aiming to preempt adverse outcomes like stillbirth,” Prof. Oyen elucidates.
In collaboration, Professor Kristin Myers from Columbia University is modelling the cervix, uterus, and foetal membranes, with the overarching goal to merge these into a comprehensive individual model to predict pregnancy outcomes. “We hope to analyse a simple ultrasound scan to understand how the uterus will adapt and when labour might occur,” Prof. Myers aspires, potentially guiding decisions on interventions like caesarean sections.
Moreover, the concept of digital twins is being expanded to model entire hospitals to enhance patient flow and healthcare system efficiency. Dr. Jacob Koris, a trauma and orthopaedic surgeon and digital lead at Getting It Right First Time, describes how tracking digital footprints left by patient interactions—from X-rays to outpatient appointments—can provide a granular, real-time view of patient treatment pathways. “Such insights could pinpoint areas for improvement and exemplary practices that could revolutionise patient care,” Dr. Koris believes.
This ambitious step forward in computational medicine promises a leap from the traditional, one-size-fits-all model to a future where every treatment is as unique as the patient it serves.Read More
A sizable portion of medical practitioners harbour reservations about the burgeoning role of artificial intelligence (AI) in shaping diagnostic and treatment protocols, as indicated by a recent survey’s findings.
The study, unveiled by Medscape on Monday (13th of November, 2023), suggests that a majority, approximately 65 per cent, of the surveyed physicians harbour either significant or moderate concerns regarding AI’s burgeoning role in informing diagnostic and therapeutic decisions. Conversely, a smaller group, constituting 36 per cent, expressed minimal or no concern over the incorporation of AI in these critical areas of healthcare.
The survey also shed light on the varying degrees of receptivity towards AI among healthcare professionals. While 42 per cent of respondents expressed enthusiasm about the prospects of AI integration in their daily work, a notable 30 per cent remained ambivalent, and an apprehensive 28 per cent displayed reservations regarding its future implications.
Echoing the sentiments of caution, former Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, in a July opinion piece, prognosticated that AI’s integration into medical practice could supplant certain functions traditionally performed by physicians, and that such a shift might occur sooner than anticipated.
“Whilst the question of ‘if’ AI will replace some of the doctors’ responsibilities is becoming obsolete, the more pressing issue is ‘when’. For certain tasks, this technologically driven future is closer than we might envisage,” Gottlieb asserted.
The responses to the Medscape survey, however, revealed a more welcoming stance towards AI as a collaborative tool in diagnosis and treatment, with a significant 56 per cent of physicians indicating keen or moderate enthusiasm for AI as a complementary aid. The remaining 44 per cent reported feeling some degree of apprehension towards AI assistance.
Interestingly, the survey highlighted a generational divide in perceptions of AI, with younger doctors, particularly those under 35, displaying less enthusiasm compared to their middle-aged counterparts aged between 45 and 54 years.
This comprehensive survey, which ran from July 12 to August 11, garnered responses from 1,043 participants spanning over 29 medical specialties. The results carry a sampling error margin of 3.03 percent, ensuring 95 per cent confidence in the data gathered.Read More
Dr. Richard Tytus, a seasoned medical professional from Hamilton, Ontario, has long championed the merits of virtual healthcare. Being at the helm of a family health team, which comprises around 30 healthcare experts and related professionals, he’s been an early adopter of telemedicine, even before it became a mainstream approach during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Discovering the Potential of Telemedicine
Driven by a commitment to cater to patients who faced physical or psychological challenges that hindered their access to healthcare, Dr. Tytus ventured into telemedicine. He recognised that certain patients were hesitant to step out of their homes due to psychological constraints, effectively limiting their medical outreach. While telephone consultations had been integrated into his practice, the introduction of video conferencing reshaped patient interactions, especially for those requiring exposure therapy.
Embracing a Comprehensive Virtual Healthcare Solution
Initially, Dr. Tytus dabbled in standard video conferencing tools to facilitate patient consultations. However, as the scope of virtual care broadened, he ventured deeper into the realm of specialised telehealth platforms. His vision was an interconnected digital space that mirrored a physical clinic: where patients could move seamlessly from reception to consultation, and even specialist evaluation if required.
Challenges he faced in the early stages of implementing telemedicine provided him with invaluable insights. For Dr. Tytus, it wasn’t merely about leveraging technology but ensuring that the essence of personal patient care wasn’t lost in the digital transition.
Choosing the Right Platform
In the vast sea of telemedicine vendors, Dr. Tytus discovered a standout platform, Banty. What distinguished Banty was not just its fortified security but also its endorsement from government entities. This validation, coupled with its successful security tests and compliance with the ISO 27001 certification, cemented its reputation for robust data protection.
Banty’s platform went beyond simple video consultations. It facilitated intra-team communication with great ease, ensured smooth transfers of patients along with their medical notes, and was adaptable to various electronic health record systems, making it highly versatile.
Dr. Tytus emphasised that one of the most significant outcomes of integrating telemedicine has been removing accessibility barriers for patients. With the hybrid model, which merges in-person and virtual consultations, they’ve achieved not only enhanced patient access but also a boost in operational efficiency.
This operational revamp has led to a tangible surge in patient consultations. Each physician in Dr. Tytus’s team now sees an additional 6-8 patients daily. This shift has also reshaped patients’ perceptions of healthcare, offering a blended approach that caters to individual patient needs.
The technology’s intuitive design has also been a boon for healthcare professionals, allowing them to focus on patient care without grappling with tech-related challenges.
Key Takeaways for Aspiring Telemedicine Adopters
For those considering a shift to telemedicine, Dr. Tytus emphasises the importance of patient usability. The system should be straightforward, minimising technical barriers. Furthermore, it should integrate seamlessly into the daily operations of healthcare professionals without a complex learning process. And, importantly, a rigid approach won’t work. The solution must be adaptable, reflecting the unique workflows of different clinics.
In conclusion, Dr. Tytus believes that the essence of telemedicine is not just technology, but the harmonious melding of technology with personalised patient care. The focus should always remain on simplifying and enhancing the healthcare experience for both patients and providers.Read More
Recent research indicates that the combination of automated insulin delivery and continuous glucose monitoring could be an effective method for regulating blood sugar levels in hospitalised adults suffering from diabetes.
A collaborative study from Emory University, Stanford University, and the University of Virginia recently published in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics, involved the utilisation of the Omnipod 5 insulin delivery system in conjunction with the Dexcom G6 continuous glucose monitor (CGM). Over a period of 10 days, 18 hospitalised adult patients with diabetes were observed. On average, during their hospital stay, the participants’ glucose levels remained within the desired range 68% of the time. Notably, these participants utilised the automated insulin delivery system for about 95% of the trial duration.
Dr. Francisco Pasquel, from Emory University School of Medicine, highlighted the study’s implications. He stated, “The combination of an automated insulin delivery system with features suitable for hospital settings, together with real-time remote continuous glucose monitoring, offers a promising approach to optimise glucose management in hospitals. This could substantially reduce the risk of hypoglycemia.”
For this study, participants were adults, 18 years or older, with either type 1 or type 2 diabetes. They were already on insulin therapy upon being admitted to the hospital. Trained medical staff and the research team utilised the automated system and the CGM to regulate each participant’s glucose levels for up to 10 days or until their discharge. The trial also included comparing the CGM’s accuracy with conventional blood glucose tests. Various data points, including medication consumption, blood components, CGM data, and insulin delivery specifics, were meticulously gathered.
By the study’s conclusion on August 8, 2022, 18 adults had participated fully. Out of these, 16 had over 48 hours of active CGM data, which was used for further glycemic analysis. The average blood sugar level recorded was 167 mg/dL. Interestingly, the daily average insulin delivery was 0.21 U/kg, while the total daily insulin dosage averaged at 0.41 U/kg. Participants also suspended insulin for approximately 20% of the time, and there were no occurrences of severe hypoglycemia or diabetic ketoacidosis.
A survey filled out by 16 participants at the end of the study revealed their experiences. All respondents were in favour of using the automated system for managing their glucose levels during their hospital stay. An impressive 94% even expressed a desire to use the system at home. However, 38% found the necessity of using finger sticks for verifying CGM data cumbersome, with 19% showing a preference for solely relying on the CGM.
The research team acknowledged certain limitations to their study, such as the limited participant number and the study’s design. They pointed out that the hands-on approach by the study’s investigators and nurses might not be easily replicated in typical hospital settings. The team advocated for more comprehensive research with randomised controlled trials to validate these preliminary findings and to better understand the broader applicability and effectiveness of automated insulin systems in varied settings.Read More
In a groundbreaking investigation led by the team at University Hospitals Coventry and Warwickshire NHS Trust (UHCW), the potential and efficacy of digital platforms tailored for advanced weight management have been highlighted.
The research revolved around assessing the eagerness, acceptance, and active participation of patients on standby for their first-ever specialist weight management consultation. In the United Kingdom, specialised weight management services, often referred to as tier 3 services, offer a holistic approach to tackling obesity. These specialised services are generally anchored in hospitals or clinic facilities and bring together a diverse group of healthcare specialists. This includes dietitians, psychologists, specialist nurses, and doctors, all proficient in the realm of weight management.
For the purposes of this research, an NHS-approved digital platform named Gro Health was integrated into the service offering. This avant-garde health application propels numerous healthcare routes, with its tier 3 weight management feature, “W8Buddy”, acting as an online weight loss clinic. This feature delivers structured learning sessions, both individual and group coaching, an expansive list of over 2,000 recipes and meal schedules, and tools for health and nutrition tracking to chart progress.
The study drew in 199 prospective patients eagerly waiting for their appointment at the NHS Trust’s tier 3 weight management service.
Preliminary results indicate that over half of these individuals expressed genuine interest in the application. An impressive one-third went on to actively engage with the digital platform, highlighting the immense potential of such digital interventions in the specialised weight management scenario.
The engagement analysis unearthed intriguing data points. Those prone to emotional eating or those with an escalated BMI exhibited an increased propensity towards the Gro Health application. Meanwhile, aspects like age, ethnic background, and metabolic indicators like glycemia and lipid readings did not notably sway the interest.
These findings could serve as a blueprint for revolutionising weight management strategy. As digital healthcare tools evolve and gain traction, they stand poised as formidable and expansive strategies to confront the global issue of obesity.
Charlotte Summers, a behavioural change expert and the Founding Chief Operations Officer, expressed her enthusiasm, noting, “The pronounced interest demonstrated by patients in the Gro Health W8Buddy tool for weight management is truly heartening.”
She drew attention to the evident link between emotional eating, a raised BMI, and heightened engagement, highlighting, “This relationship underscores the transformative capacity of precise digital strategies in addressing weight-related concerns.”
Summers further elaborated on the journey ahead, “As we venture into providing tier 3 and 4 weight management services, we’re thrilled about tailoring these platforms with firsthand insights from both patients and healthcare providers. Such a collaborative effort not only champions a patient-driven model but also deepens our grasp on their preferences and anticipations. This, in turn, empowers us to offer top-tier, accurate care, be it through enhancing conventional healthcare avenues or pioneering virtual healthcare experiences.”
The study’s authors stress the need for continued exploration into understanding the challenges and motivators behind adopting digital tools and emphasise the importance of rigorously assessing their impact within specialised weight management services.
The rise of digital health platforms is sculpting the future of healthcare. This specific investigation underscores the transformative power of such tools, all while highlighting the necessity to unravel the complexities of patient engagement. As we witness the proliferation and capabilities of digital health platforms, the persistent quest to maximise their utility for patients and the broader healthcare spectrum is paramount.
Stay tuned for more revelations as ongoing studies continue to sculpt this rapidly evolving domain of weight management.Read More
In a significant report released by WHO Europe, there’s an emphasised call for an immediate boost in investments towards digital health literacy across the region.
The report, titled “Digital Health in the European Region: The Ongoing Commitment to Transformation,” sheds light on a concerning statistic: only half of the countries spanning Europe and Central Asia have rolled out policies tailored to bolster digital health literacy. This oversight leaves a considerable portion of the population in the shadows, devoid of the benefits of evolving digital healthcare platforms.
The landscape of healthcare has experienced a monumental shift in the WHO European Region over recent times, as is evident from the burgeoning adoption rate of digital health solutions. This transformation has redefined the dynamics of patient care.
Released during the Second WHO Symposium on the Future of Health Systems in a Digital Era held for the European Region, the report encompasses insights from all 53 member nations. Many countries within this bracket witnessed a spontaneous surge in the creation and deployment of digital health tools and policies due to the pressing demands of the COVID-19 pandemic – a time dominated by lockdowns and social distancing mandates. This led to the broader acceptance of telemedicine services and the advent of user-centric health applications. However, the report firmly stresses that the journey is far from complete.
A pressing concern is the evident disparity in the adoption and assimilation of digital health solutions across the region. This “digital health divide” implies that a staggering number of individuals are yet to harness the potential benefits of digital health advancements.
Diving deeper, the report draws attention to several pivotal areas:
- Of the countries surveyed, 44 have an established national digital health strategy.
- A unanimous consensus is seen with all 53 member nations having legislation that focuses on protecting individual data privacy.
- However, there’s a considerable disparity in the preparedness and execution, with only 19 countries offering guidance on evaluating the efficacy and safety of digital health initiatives.
- Slightly above 50% of these countries have put forth policies advocating digital health literacy and have set into motion a digital inclusion agenda.
- The pandemic saw 30 countries devising legislation to champion the cause of telehealth.
- An area that requires immediate attention is the oversight of mobile health (mHealth) applications. Many nations lack a dedicated body to ensure the quality, safety, and reliability of these apps. A mere 15% have reported systematic evaluations of state-backed mHealth initiatives.
- Just above half of the countries have strategised the application of Big Data and avant-garde analytics within the healthcare domain.
Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO Regional Director for Europe, opined on the matter, “In numerous nations, the growth trajectory of digital health platforms has been somewhat sporadic. This approach warrants an overhaul. It’s imperative to perceive digital health as a long-term, strategic investment, rather than a fleeting addition or a privilege enjoyed by a select few. It is a clarion call for our political and health leaders to strategically invest in the digital health infrastructure of tomorrow, today.”Read More
In a recent announcement, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) revealed its plans to allocate £30 million for state-of-the-art technology aimed at enhancing services provided by the NHS. This funding is anticipated to play a pivotal role in reducing patient wait times, expediting the diagnostic process, and introducing novel patient treatment methodologies.
The DHSC, on its website, highlighted that such financial backing is expected to alleviate some of the operational burdens the NHS might face during the upcoming winter season. Notably, the funds could potentially be utilised to expand 3D diagnostics, thus expediting cancer screenings, and to implement innovative logistic solutions such as drone deliveries.
Moreover, another significant avenue the investment could support is the augmentation of virtual wards. This would allow more patients to receive essential care within the comfort of their homes, ensuring hospital beds remain available for those in acute need. To date, the NHS has successfully established over 9,800 virtual ward beds, with plans to achieve the 10,000 bed milestone before winter strikes.
Regions throughout England can access this funding. Integrated care systems (ICSs) have been tasked with submitting proposals to both the DHSC and NHSE detailing how they would best leverage the technology. The application process is set to commence shortly.
Health and Social Care Secretary, Steve Barclay, emphasised the government’s commitment to ensuring the medical fraternity is equipped with cutting-edge technology, stating, “From virtual ward beds to wearable medical devices, this new funding is a testament to our dedication to enhancing patient care, preparing for winter, and relieving hospital pressures.”
In addition to supporting the use of wearable devices that monitor vital signs and aid in the management of chronic ailments, ICSs might channel investments into advanced digital imaging, a move that would undoubtedly bolster diagnostic capabilities, especially in the realms of cancer detection and other severe illnesses.
Dr Vin Diwakar, NHS’s interim national director of transformation, applauded the NHS’s innovative prowess, stating that such tech advancements have already positively impacted over 210,000 patients through virtual ward setups. Ellie Kearney, a spokesperson from the Health Tech Alliance, welcomed the financial boost but also expressed some members’ discontent with certain previous funding strategies.
In further developments, the DHSC referenced the Medical Technology Strategy they unveiled earlier in the year, which laid down a roadmap for enabling patient access to secure, efficient, and pioneering tech via the NHS. This latest £30 million injection builds upon a prior £21 million allocation towards AI diagnostic tools.
This strategic funding alignment is in sync with the government’s overarching vision for fortifying the NHS, especially with the challenges that winter typically brings. In addition to this tech fund, the government, in September, infused £200 million into the NHS, aiming to fortify its resilience. The Urgent and Emergency Care Recovery Plan, rolled out at the beginning of the year, pledges to furnish 5,000 more hospital beds, 10,000 virtual ward beds, and 800 brand-new ambulances, supported by an impressive £1 billion fund.Read More
The latest research from the Boston Consulting Group Centre for Growth underscores the potential held by healthcare data in the UK. The report, titled ‘Towards a healthier, wealthier UK: unlocking the value of healthcare data‘, highlights robust public support for optimising the UK’s healthcare data, emphasising its dual potential to revitalise the economy and alleviate strains on the healthcare system.
Historically, the concept of harnessing healthcare data has been proposed numerous times in the UK. Still, its full potential remains largely untapped. According to the Boston Consulting Group, the roadmap to actualising this vision rests on two pillars: gaining comprehensive public endorsement for healthcare data utilisation and redirecting its generated value back into the healthcare sector.
Empirical evidence has demonstrated the tangible benefits of leveraging healthcare data. A standout case is the Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust, which managed to curtail £2,000 in hospital admissions for acute kidney injury patients. Their success was anchored on an innovative app which synthesised data from blood tests, medical archives, and clinical assessment tools to provide timely alerts to healthcare professionals upon identifying potential risks.
An exemplary initiative from the Netherlands further fortifies this narrative. A consortium of seven academic hospitals implemented a value-driven healthcare model, leading to a remarkable 30% decline in unnecessary patient admissions and a staggering 74% drop in follow-up surgeries due to complications. This was achieved by pinpointing the right metrics to enhance patient outcomes and fostering a culture of data-sharing across institutions.
Lord O’Shaughnessy, a luminary from Newmarket Strategy and ex-parliamentary undersecretary of state at the Department of Health, opined, “Properly harnessed healthcare data has the potential to amplify both the UK’s health standards and economic vigour. However, this transformation hinges on unshakeable public trust. Establishing this trust mandates a rigorous, inclusive, and adaptive mechanism for public engagement and decision-making.”
Contrary to prevalent misconceptions, the Boston Consulting Group’s report revealed that a staggering 90% of individuals are amenable to sharing their health data with the NHS, reiterating that this openness is contingent upon the intended use of this data. While 73% endorsed the use of their data to gauge potential health risks, 72% favoured its application in refining clinical care methodologies.
The public’s fervent desire to be privy to discussions concerning their health data’s usage was palpable. In London, this dialogue has already gained momentum with the OneLondon Citizen Advisory Group finalising recommendations for the city’s Health Data Strategy.
On the matter of monetising healthcare data, most respondents were comfortable with their data being profitable, provided a portion of the proceeds revitalises the healthcare sector or catalyses broader societal benefits.
In its concluding remarks, the Boston Consulting Group’s report delineated actionable steps to actualise the potential of healthcare data:
- Showcase the tangible benefits derived from accessible healthcare data to foster public comprehension and endorsement.
- Orchestrating a cohesive public engagement drive across all NHS data-centric ventures, elucidating the tangible benefits of optimised data usage.
- Involve the public in data-related decision-making through decision panels and data usage logs, ensuring they remain integral stakeholders in shaping the discourse.
- Establish a central reservoir to channel the monetary value extracted from data into local NHS frameworks.
Concluding his thoughts, Lord O’Shaughnessy urged policymakers to champion a grand public outreach initiative around healthcare data, stating, “Without engaging the masses in this crucial dialogue, we stand at the precipice of forfeiting an unprecedented opportunity.”Read More
The world of dermatology is set to experience transformative improvements in patient care, thanks to the integration of Digital Health Interventions (DHIs). This finding is a result of a systematic review and mapping study undertaken recently by researchers.
DHIs, as catalogued by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018, span a broad range of digital tools encompassing telemedicine, mobile health apps, wearable tech, and advanced artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms. One of the standout benefits of telemedicine as a DHI, as highlighted by the research of Reinders et al, includes notable merits like significantly shortened waiting periods, heightened levels of patient satisfaction, and diagnostic precision on par with traditional methods.
Reinders and team elucidated that DHIs bring about enhancements through a plethora of channels. These channels range from harnessing data analytics to refine decision-making in both diagnosis and treatment, fostering effective communication among stakeholders in patient care, and bolstering patient self-management in chronic conditions. Additionally, DHIs also play a pivotal role in the proactive promotion of health-conscious behaviours.
In their quest to dive deeper into DHIs and their application in dermatology, the team undertook a comprehensive review of the MEDLINE (PubMed) database in August 2022. Their search parameters encompassed a wide range of terms, including but not limited to “digital health,” “eHealth,” “mHealth,” and specific dermatological conditions. To ensure contemporary relevance, studies before 2010 were not considered for the analysis due to the swift pace of technological progression post that period.
In terms of selection criteria, the team opted for studies that embraced quantitative methods. Additionally, studies that explored AI algorithms’ prowess were required to benchmark these algorithms against the conventional, human-driven standard of care, either in a practical real-world scenario or within a commercially available software framework.
To ensure rigorous evaluation, a consortium of 2 to 3 experts, depending on the study’s complexity, assessed the relevance and fit of all collated studies. This assessment encapsulated a diverse range of attributes, from the study’s design, origin, and participant count to its specific focus on DHI as per WHO’s classifications.
After meticulous scrutiny, a total of 403 studies were integrated into the final review. A remarkable insight was the discernible surge in DHI-centric research in recent times, predominantly in the domains of store-and-forward (S&F) teledermatology and AI-driven image analytics. A significant emphasis was noted on skin cancer identification, with 148 studies specifically focusing on this area. Other dermatological conditions, including acne, psoriasis, and wounds, also featured in DHI studies, albeit to a lesser extent.
In their concluding remarks, Reinders and team observed, “The momentum in DHI-focused studies is palpable, with an accelerating trend over the recent years. This acceleration is primarily driven by advancements in S&F teledermatology and AI applications, with a pronounced focus on skin cancer diagnosis and its intersection with healthcare providers. The gamut of DHIs evaluated across diverse user groups and varied use-cases underscores the immense potential DHIs hold for dermatology’s future. Yet, to harness the full spectrum of DHIs’ potential, there’s an evident need for deeper research, especially in areas like ongoing management of chronic skin conditions and efficient patient triage.”Read More
A recent study spearheaded by Xealth in 2023 underscores a significant shift towards digital health solutions among members of the College of Healthcare Information Management Executives (CHIME). The survey, carried out from May to June, highlighted that an overwhelming 90% of CHIME members are now leaning into digital health strategies. This robust adoption rate prevails in spite of challenges such as fiscal constraints and limitations in staffing resources.
Delving deeper into the findings, a significant 81% of participants have seamlessly integrated digital health tools within their Electronic Health Record (EHR) systems. Meanwhile, a noteworthy 19.1% claim to have not only achieved EHR integration of digital health platforms but also set distinct objectives and performance metrics surrounding them.
Mike McSherry, at the helm of Xealth as CEO and co-founder, expressed his insights on the matter. “The healthcare sector is typically perceived as resistant to rapid transformation. Yet, the swift embrace of digital health solutions is a testament to its increasing relevance and potential. It’s heartening to observe the overarching endorsement from top-tier management in health establishments. The correlation between digital health strategies and both the growth in bottom-line and reduction in readmissions is becoming pronounced. As digital initiatives continue to evolve, we anticipate these figures to further accentuate.”
The survey also shed light on several pivotal insights:
- A large majority, 81%, perceive digital health as encompassing apps and platforms that can be downloaded and used in conjunction with a dedicated device. This is closely trailed by digital tools for patient education, such as downloadable PDFs and video resources (excluding clinical references), accounting for 71.4%.
- Remote Patient Monitoring (RPM) and stand-alone downloadable apps and platforms (which don’t necessitate a connected device) are recognised as integral components of digital health by two-thirds (66.7%) of those surveyed.
- An encouraging 76.2% of participants emphasised that their health systems witnessed a surge in patient involvement and interaction courtesy of enhanced digital health strategies. A considerable 47.6% credited the uptick in digital health tools for facilitating clinicians’ tasks and ensuring ease of operations.
- A positive fiscal performance coupled with decreased patient readmissions due to ramped-up digital health utilisation was confirmed by 14.3% of respondents.
- The primary drivers prompting health establishments to expand their digital health footprint were identified as increased funding from payers or employers (81%), heightened patient demand (71.4%), improved system compatibility and integration ease (66.7%), the establishment of clear CPT codes dedicated to digital interventions (42.9%), and the growing availability of clinical proof validating digital interventions (33.3%).
Interestingly, none of the participants identified a lack of endorsement from C-level executives or diminishing patient engagement as impediments in their digital health adoption journey.Read More
Diabetes, a condition commonly diagnosed in adults under 65, has been increasingly observed in the senior population. As the disease advances in this age group, it often brings forth complex healthcare challenges. This highlights the need for early diagnosis, especially among older adults vulnerable to either the onset or exacerbation of diabetes symptoms.
Innovations in artificial intelligence are offering new avenues for early detection of such health conditions. These AI-powered tools, especially effective when handling vast and precise datasets, are revolutionising the early diagnosis landscape.
A trailblazing AI model, pioneered by researchers at Emory University, stands out with its unique approach. This model is engineered to discern early signs of diabetes by analysing X-ray images obtained during various medical assessments. These X-rays were originally captured for diverse medical reasons such as chest discomfort, respiratory issues, or pre- and post-operative evaluations. Notably, the AI model underwent rigorous training using a whopping 270,000 X-rays sourced from nearly 160,000 individuals.
Historically, X-rays haven’t been a standard diagnostic tool for diabetes. However, this groundbreaking AI model demonstrated its proficiency in identifying correlations between the accumulation of fatty tissues in specific body regions and an increased risk of diabetes, as highlighted by the study authors.
As a next step, the research team is keen on fine-tuning the model’s accuracy. Their vision encompasses integrating this AI tool into electronic health record (EHR) systems, aiming to equip physicians and healthcare providers with timely alerts on potential diabetes risks.
To put things in perspective, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has estimated that an alarming 300,000 elderly individuals are diagnosed with diabetes for the first time annually. Diabetes’s prevalence is soaring, with a staggering 100% increase observed over the past three and a half decades. The Endocrine Society further reveals that nearly a third of the elderly population is grappling with diabetes.
The challenge, however, doesn’t end at diagnosis. Achieving effective diabetes management, especially in long-term care environments, poses significant hurdles. It is alarming to note that certain treatments lead to a heightened hypoglycemia risk, impacting around 35% of patients, as cited by the McKnight’s Clinical Daily. Overmedication is another pressing concern, with a considerable segment of the senior population not receiving timely medication adjustments. Amidst these challenges, the medical community is optimistic about emerging treatments such as SGLT2Is, which are on the cusp of wider adoption in long-term care settings. Furthermore, recent research has illuminated the potential benefits of kombucha tea in regulating blood glucose levels, offering a glimmer of hope in the fight against diabetes.Read More
In a significant announcement made during the Health Minister’s Meeting of the G20 Summit, the World Health Organization (WHO) joined forces with the G20 India presidency to introduce the Global Initiative on Digital Health (GIDH). This noteworthy event was held under the aegis of the Government of India.
Designed as an acronym pronounced “guide”, the GIDH serves a dual purpose. Primarily, it will function as a network and platform managed by WHO to bolster the execution of the Global Strategy on Digital Health spanning from 2020 to 2025. Furthermore, WHO is entrusted with the responsibility of acting as the Secretariat, whose role is to synchronise global standards, assimilate best practices, and marshal resources. The ultimate objective is to expedite the transformation of the digital health system on a global scale.
The Director-General of WHO, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, expressed gratitude towards the G20 nations and the G20 India Presidency for acknowledging WHO’s unparalleled capabilities in this sector. He underscored WHO’s dedication to this cause, emphasising, “It necessitates the collective effort of the G20, development allies, and global institutions to realise our shared vision. WHO is firmly committed to augmenting countries’ capacities, aiming to enhance the availability of reliable digital solutions. Our vision is a future that epitomises health, safety, and equity.”
India’s Union Health Minister, Dr Mansukh Mandaviya, reflecting on the event, stated, “This day will be etched in the annals of the G20 Health Working Group’s history. The member countries not only recognised a pressing priority but also collaborated fervently to bring it to fruition.” He went on to highlight that the Global Initiative on Digital Health is a pivotal achievement during India’s tenure as the G20 Presidency.
Tracing back to 2005, the inception of the WHO resolution on ehealth paved the way for the development and endorsement of the WHO Global Strategy on Digital Health. Since then, an impressive tally of over 120 WHO member nations have conceptualised and implemented a national digital health strategy or policy.
The unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic underscored the potency of digital health interventions. While numerous nations leveraged digital health tools, many articulated a pressing need. Their focus shifted from mere product-centric and experimental digital health ventures to a more structured national digital health framework. This framework would encompass effective governance, comprehensive policy guidelines, and a skilled health workforce adept at selecting, maintaining, and tailoring digital health solutions.
The GIDH has charted a clear roadmap for its mission, which includes:
- Crafting well-defined, priority-centric investment blueprints for the digital health evolution.
- Enhancing the visibility and reporting of digital health assets.
- Encouraging the dissemination of knowledge and fostering collaboration across diverse geographies to catalyse growth.
- Championing unified government-led strategies for digital health governance at the national level.
- Augmenting both technical and monetary backing for the roll-out of the Global Strategy on Digital Health 2020–2025 and its subsequent phases.
In a testament to its commitment, WHO, along with its partners, declared significant pledges both in monetary terms and resources from a diverse set of stakeholders, marking the grand unveiling of the GIDH.
The promise of digital health is profound. It is viewed as a catalyst propelling improved health outcomes, aligned with the aspiration of achieving Universal Health Coverage and the health-centric Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The myriad benefits of digital health range from empowering individuals on their health odysseys, facilitating healthcare providers in adhering to best practices and delivering exemplary care, to invigorating the entire health infrastructure through optimised supply chains and effective workforce administration.Read More
Set to transform patient care, the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub is a groundbreaking £4 million project with ambitious goals. It aims to revolutionise the treatment and diagnosis of diseases for a population of 1.4 million people living in a region heavily impacted by high disease prevalence and pronounced health inequalities. This initiative, led by the University of Sheffield, leverages innovative digital technologies to shape the future of healthcare.
Utilising state-of-the-art tools and techniques, the hub intends to pioneer cutting-edge research using data gleaned from smartphones, wearables, novel sensors, and the National Health Service (NHS) data. In addition to these, artificial intelligence (AI) will play a crucial role in the development of new clinical tools. This paradigm shift is set to redefine personalised patient care and facilitate disease management effectively.
The South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub has an impressive roster of partners, including Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, local General Practitioners (GPs), mental health services, the Sheffield Integrated Care System, businesses, and patient and public groups. The collective intelligence of these stakeholders will forge a robust knowledge pool, capitalising on the region’s existing prowess in developing digital health technologies.
The Hub, among five across the UK, has been granted part of £16.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Health Ageing and Wellbeing and Tackling Infections UKRI Strategic Themes. This financial backing aims to address four central healthcare challenges: antimicrobial resistance, disease prediction, diagnosis and intervention, out-of-hospital care, and tackling health disparities through the development and deployment of digital healthcare technologies.
The project targets both urban and rural populations, working towards addressing the unique healthcare needs shaped by significant health and social inequalities. Simultaneously, it offers a blueprint for stimulating economic growth in the region through digital skills training, networking, and knowledge exchange, bridging various stakeholders in the digital health sphere.
The South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub also proposes to deliver specialist health training online, accessible freely to researchers, clinicians, patients, and the public. Professor Tim Chico, Director of the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield, underscored the urgency of this investment. He emphasised the critical role of this state-of-the-art health technology research in tackling health disparities and high disease burden, including heart and lung diseases, cancer, and mental health issues prevalent in the region.
Echoing his sentiments, Professor Steve Haake, Deputy Director of the Digital Health Hub, envisions a future where digital health tools leverage real-time data from daily life. This transformation empowers patients and healthcare professionals to make informed decisions in a timely manner. Under the aegis of the hub, patients, clinicians, companies, and the public will have the autonomy to design their own apps and tools, bolstering their successful integration within the NHS.
Local authorities have thrown their weight behind the establishment of the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub. Oliver Coppard, Mayor of the South Yorkshire Combined Authority, hailed the initiative as an instrumental step towards confronting health inequalities plaguing the region. He lauded the collaborative efforts between the NHS, universities, and the business community in highlighting South Yorkshire’s cutting-edge health and wellbeing sector, asserting its role as a global frontrunner in healthcare innovation.
Forming part of a more extensive £36.5 million investment in healthcare technology from the EPSRC, the Digital Healthcare Hubs, including the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, aim to spearhead innovative healthcare solutions. By leveraging advancements in robotics, computer modelling, and imaging, these hubs are set to redefine healthcare outcomes.
The South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, with its robust collaboration among diverse stakeholders and focus on digital technologies, stands at the forefront of healthcare innovation. By addressing gaps in healthcare delivery and harnessing digital innovation, the hub holds significant promise in reshaping patient care, not only in South Yorkshire but far beyond its borders.Read More