Apps, Secondary Care

Cambridge University Hospitals video prescriptions for children, artificial pancreas tech and AI to speed up dementia diagnosis

Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (CUH) has announced a range of health tech innovations, including video prescriptions of children talking about their chronic illnesses, AI to speed-up dementia diagnosis and an artificial pancreas combined with an algorithm.

Clinical teams at the trust are now prescribing videos of children talking about their chronic illnesses, with an aim to support other children living with the same condition. The programme forms part of a new focus on emotional wellbeing and physical health, with the videos providing advice and peer support.

The first videos focus on children with inflammatory bowel disorders, and have been developed by social enterprise IBDrelief alongside Addenbrooke’s clinicians.

Dr Robert Heuschkel, Consultant Paediatric Gastroenterologist and CUH Clinical Director for Cambridge Children’s Hospital, highlights the value of the videos: “Doctors and nurses mostly prescribe medication and deal with the medical aspects of the conditions, whilst these videos are helping patients understand more about coping in day-to-day life. We know that children and young people with chronic illnesses are more likely to experience mental health problems, including depression, anxiety and loneliness.

“Hearing from other children about how they are navigating the reality of their illness, how they still do normal things for their age, like sleepovers or playing sports, can really help improve their emotional wellbeing and their longer-term outcomes.”

To read more about the project, please visit the Cambridge Children’s website.

You can watch one of the videos here:

Algorithm to speed-up dementia diagnosis

Dr Timothy Rittman, consultant and clinical lead for the trial, explained: “Traditionally, when we look at patient scans we are looking for patterns to be able to help us exclude things like strokes and brain tumours. The computer can do this much more comprehensively than any human, helping to give us not only a more accurate diagnosis, but also a prognosis as well. With a better prognosis we can identify how quickly a patient is moving away from the normal pattern of the disease and amend their treatment and care accordingly.”

The technology has been used as part of a trial with 80 patients.

Artificial pancreas tested on diabetes patients

The final innovation sees CUH utilising a device to help people living with type 2 diabetes who also require kidney dialysis.

The artificial pancreas is a small, portable medical device designed to carry out the function of a healthy pancreas in controlling blood glucose levels, using technology to automate insulin delivery.

The system is worn externally on the body, and is made up of a glucose sensor, a computer algorithm to calculate the insulin dose, and an insulin pump.

Tests led by a team from Addenbrooke’s Hospital and the University of Cambridge show that a small portable device can help patients safely and effectively manage their blood sugar levels.

Dr Charlotte Boughton from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science at the University of Cambridge, who led the study, said: “Patients living with type 2 diabetes and kidney failure are a particularly vulnerable group and managing their condition – trying to prevent potentially dangerous highs or lows of blood sugar levels – can be a challenge.”

Senior author Professor Roman Hovorka, from the Wellcome Trust-MRC Institute of Metabolic Science, said: “Not only did the artificial pancreas increase the amount of time patients spent within the target range for the blood sugar levels, but it also gave the users peace of mind. They were able to spend less time having to focus on managing their condition and worrying about the blood sugar levels, and more time getting on with their lives.”

The team is currently trialling the artificial pancreas for outpatient use in people living with type 2 diabetes who do not need dialysis and exploring the system in complex medical situations such as perioperative care.