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Feature Part One: How tech is supporting the COVID-19 crisis

As part of our continued coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak, we take a look at some of the innovative health tech companies that are supporting the NHS, patients and staff alike in the current crisis.

In this feature supported by Highland Marketing, we hear from companies across health and care to understand how the industry has rallied together over the last few weeks in adapting to an everchanging and demanding situation. We interviewed leaders from across the industry to hear about new software, changing pathways, new features and initiatives to support the health and care system.

Part one of the feature includes: TPP, UKCloud, Inhealthcare, Lantum, Siilo, CliniSys, Healthcare Communications, Ingenica Solutions, Lexacom, Biodose, NextGate, AccuRx, Nurx & Carbon Health, EMIS, Draper & Dash, Hospify, Advise INC, iPlato, Healthcare Gateway, Concentric Health and PatientSource.

Hospify sees jump in teams using its messaging system, James Flint, CEO of Hospify, said to HTN “We are ramping up significantly to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. We have seen an exponential growth in people signing up to Hospify since the coronavirus crisis has hit – to the extent that we are now helping more than 1,000 new NHS users a day.”

“Last week Hospify rolled out its instant messaging tool to all 10,000 staff at London North West University Healthcare Trust as a testbed project under the aegis of NHSX CIO Sonia Patel. Since the beginning of March nearly 30 NHS hospital trusts and several health boards have signed up to the trial version of Hospify Hub – a tool for managing instant messaging across the organisation. And GPs and clinical commissioning groups are engaging like never before.”

“Such huge interest says loud and clear that now more than ever NHS staff need a way to communicate with each other and patients quickly. But they also need to do this securely in a way that protects themselves.”

“NHSX and the Information Commissioner’s Office have relaxed information governance rules so clinicians can use tools like WhatsApp. But in many cases CIOs and CCIOs don’t see this as a long-term solution, and immediately this may not always be practical – especially for a doctor or a community nurse who wants to communicate with patients, without contact information becoming compromised. Particularly at a time like this, giving your phone number to hundreds of anxious patients could make it difficult or even impossible for health and care professionals to operate.”

“Our priority is to help as many people as possible as quickly as possible – other practicalities can wait until things have levelled out.  That’s why we have ramped up our support, and we have built a call centre in the last week, staffed in part by students at University College London who have had lectures cancelled and who we have trained to help people deal with technical questions.”

Last week Draper & Dash launched an Impact Assessment Tool to provide ICU and live demand data in real-time.

The team created the IAT tool to help trusts best manage their available resources during this crisis. A number of organisations adopted the tool last week combining national HES data with live global data sources, alongside each trust’s own local ED, pathology, radiology, and workforce data.

Organisations are able to instantly model the impact of increased volume and complexity caused by COVID-19 on their bed capacity and workforce, in addition to creating projections of how this may change based on the growth rates of sample countries and their own matched patient demographics. The IAT therefore provides a simple and effective tool to help ensure trusts are fully equipped to monitor and predict the upcoming needs of their health systems, allowing for improved preparation so that patients receive the best care possible.

EMIS last week announced it’s offering free video consultation tools to GPs.

EMIS said “The Video Consult service will be provided at no cost to practices for a temporary period (12 weeks) and online training and support materials will be given.”

TPP brought forward the launch of its new patient facing app Airmid.

The tool supports citizens take control of their own health record and engage with their own care team. It includes appointment booking to video consultations and wearable integrations.

Health Communications last week launched a chatbot for trusts to embed within their website or send to patients to answer common COVID-19 questions, reducing the burden on telephone lines.

The company has also automated SMS messaging to large cohorts of patients to convert complete face to face clinics to video and telephone appointments and keep patients updated on the changing situation. The company is also about to go live with two trusts to support virtual appointments and has introduced a digital symptom checker to triage and act as a pre-assessment – the information is instantly returned to the hospital for assessment.

Laboratory information specialists CliniSys has worked closely with Public Health England to streamline the reporting of crucial laboratory data to ensure as complete an analysis of the virus is captured nationally as possible.

Richard Craven, CliniSys UK CEO said to HTN “It is absolutely vital given the challenges from coping with COVID-19 that laboratory systems are as straightforward and effective as possible so the developing picture of the threat is captured centrally quickly and efficiently.”

“Working very closely with Public Health England, we have distributed free to all our laboratories new guidance on a simple configuration to our WinPath Enterprise information management system to enhance the presentation of test results for COVID-19.”

“We believe this is a significant enhancement, avoiding time-consuming manual processes and reducing further pressure on already over-stretched laboratory teams. Responses so far from laboratories have been very supportive and we continue to look out for further simple systems enhancements to save time.”

UKCloud has supported thousands with remote working at scale and the supplier community it supports.

Cleveland Henry, Director of Cloud at UKCloud Health, said “Like everybody else out there, we are trying to provide support where we can. The first, big challenge that trusts have asked us to respond to is enabling staff to work remotely, by making sure they can connect into their work machines from home and communicate with each other.”

“Working remotely is not new; but doing it at this scale is – and cloud lets you do it in days rather than months. Another thing in demand is Infrastructure, referred to as IaaS: Infrastructure as a Service. With people working remotely, there is an increased need for storage of files (video, images, voice) and messages. With the IT team unable to deliver this at pace through traditional methods, cloud can be a key enabler by providing on-demand ‘burst’ capacity.”

“Our cloud platforms are also connected to the Health & Social Care Network (HSCN), so we can enable secure connections to NHS standards. In addition, we have an extensive partner community delivering applications, so we have been supporting those suppliers with current initiatives, such as the rapid deployment for video consultations capability and health self-management apps such as Aseptika’s Activ8rlives App. So that’s all very positive.”

“The only thing that worries me is that there is a bit of a scattergun approach. We have seen panic buying in supermarkets, and we are seeing a bit of the same in health tech. There needs to be more consideration for what the strategy is going to look like on the other side. In normal times, we always say: go for the minimum viable product and build on it.”

While I completely understand that these are not normal times, the thinking should not be different. This is a huge opportunity to accelerate the digitisation we have all been talking about for a decade and to do things differently in the future – time now really is of the essence – but that will be much easier if people make the right considered decisions now.”

Lantum has supported trusts manage and allocate clinical resources across the system.

Melissa Morris, CEO, Lantum said to HTN “We have put every ounce of our focus and effort responding to this, because we have a moral obligation to. We are saddened as a team when we hear about the human cost of this disease, it is all consuming, and we feel the weight of responsibility to help do something about it.”

Siilo messenger is now providing its organisational crisis management tool to the NHS for free.

Lexacom is offering its mobile application for free.

 Andrew Whiteley, CEO, Lexacom said to HTN “last week we started to offer our mobile application to all our users free of charge whilst there is social distancing in action.”

“Our development team are also working hard to ensure that people can work from home but maintain the same very high levels of security and confidentiality that we are well known for.”

“We are used by over 60% of GPs on a daily basis and as an ex-GP myself, I am doing all I can to help them perform their increasingly difficult job.”

NextGate scales-up its identity management solution 

The company said to HTN“We have already taken the necessary business continuity and security measures to ensure our mission critical patient identification services are running at the highest level of performance to support our customers, protect our employees, and play our part in response to this global pandemic.”

“We know from customers that lab orders will go through the roof.  Our patient identity management solution is being scaled to meet demand.”

“Further, we are working around the clock with our state health information exchange (HIE) customers to expedite their onboarding timelines, knowing they will play a central role in disaster coordination.”

Inhealthcare is helping to minimise face-to-face contact.

The company is supporting remote patient monitoring for high-risk citizens – services include COPD, hypertension, heart failure, gestational diabetes and anticoagulation.

Its working with national agencies to provide an online symptom-checking tool to triage citizens based on the severity of symptoms and is supporting with an automated screening service for patients due to attend appointments.

The company is also supporting through its video consultation platform. The company said “Importantly all services are digitally inclusive. Citizens can access our services via SMS, online, automated telephone call or video.”

Advise Inc is supporting procurement teams with analysis.

Mat Oram, CEO & Co-founder, AdviseInc said to HTN “We’ve delayed developments in our analytics to free up analysts to support stretched procurement teams with analysis – for free for the next 3 months. Trust’s don’t need to be a customer of ours either.”

“Our business and data are setup to enable us to respond in minutes/hours not days/weeks like many teams will face.”

“As far as our staff are concerned it is business as usual. We’re used to dealing with rapid change and all have been homeworkers since inception, so our own use of technologies like Zoom,, Slack, Google is just normal to us.”

“The services we provide are cloud based and our own infrastructure is cloud based.”

Accurx have, in one day, developed an online consultation service and is providing the tool for free.

Jacob, CEO and Co-Founder said to HTN “We are very privileged to work with an amazing team; they are very dedicated and very talented. When we decided on Friday to implement accuRx Fleming to our practices, the team worked through the weekend so we could test in a handful of practices on Monday morning and then release to all practices Monday afternoon.”

“I don’t know of any other healthcare company who has managed to go from concept to national rollout in one working day.”

Healthcare Gateway is supporting access to patient data at the point of care.

The company said to HTN “This ensures front line health and social care workers have access to patient data, when and where it is needed to support faster, more efficient care.”

“We can deploy real time connectivity at scale and pace, and if customers need support, they should not hesitate to contact us.”

Concentric Health digitises content for surgery.

The company said “During this pandemic, social distancing measures are projected to significantly impact on mortality.”

“For healthcare systems, a key element is managing the numbers attending healthcare facilities. Concentric digitally transforms the paper process of giving consent for surgery.”

“We are extending Concentric’s functionality to enable shared, remote interaction in response to this pandemic. This will allow patients and clinicians to have remote consent conversations, and documentation of that consent without unnecessary and worrisome outpatient appointments.”

Aire Logic is offering its online consultation platform for free to any and all healthcare organisations as well as supporting health and social care providers.

PatientSource has announced that it will be offering an adapted version of its Electronic Patient Record software free of charge with minimal cloud hosting costs.

The adapted version of the PatientSource software will feature a cloud-based electronic observation module complete with patient trackers and ward whiteboard tools.

Dr Michael Brooks, Chief Medical Officer and Co-Founder of PatientSource, said “Our PatientSource COVID-19 tracker will show you which affected patients are in your hospital or ward, what their latest vitals are, the plans for escalation, and who the expected incoming cases are in real-time.”

“This allows you to identify the patients who need oxygen bays and the patients who need critical care input, allowing you to allocate limited resources to those who need them quickly.”

iPlato has updated its remote consultation service. This will allow teams of clinicians to collaborate across GP practices.

Tobias Alpsten, CEO, iPlato said  “Using the myGP platform to manage everything from outbound patient engagement, appointment booking through to triage and video consultation primary care can continue to play its key role in managing the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“As our solution is web-based it means that a clinician can use the platform from his or her own device while working from home, triaging appointments and conducting them remotely while possibly being in isolation.”

Nurx & Carbon Health introduce COVID-19 home testing kits.

They deliver swab-based sample collection hardware for home use to collect a mucus sample, which they then ship back using protective packaging to be tested by one an FDA-approved commercial lab.

The test checks for the genetic presence of the COVID-19 virus and have a high degree of accuracy.

You can see more about their home testing kits here:

NURX Home Testing Kit

Carbon Health Home Testing Kit

Biodose is supporting medication management.

A spokesperson for the company said “We are supporting care homes, and those self-isolating, to control infection risk during the coronavirus pandemic.  This coating helps reduce the risk of infection and supports care homes to protect residents who are at significantly greater risk of contracting COVID-19.”

“For people over the age of 70 and those with certain health conditions encouraged to self-isolate in order to protect themselves from coronavirus, Biodose Connect support people managing their medication.”

Ingenica is supporting critical management and reordering of PPE.

The company said to HTN “Whilst we all face this crisis together, Ingenica Solutions, like so many other heath tech companies, would like to reassure the NHS that we are here to help and support all healthcare staff, who are working tirelessly and selflessly for us all in the face of adversity.”

“As demand for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) soars during the outbreak of the coronavirus infection, and it is reported that there is a shortage of supplies to keep healthcare professionals safe from covid-19, Ingenica Solutions would like to offer our support.”

“We are able to assist in the critical management and reordering of PPE, which is currently a continuing growing concern for all.”