News, News in Brief

News in brief: NHS App radiology letters for Sherwood Forest, first augmented reality neuromodulation spinal surgery at NNUH

Our news in brief this week is stuffed with stories – from digital letters, augmented reality surgery and virtual reality learning through to cancer-identifying software and a hospital simulation hub.

As usual, we aim to feature a breadth of topics in health tech and this week’s round up covers plenty of ground.

Find out what’s been going on in the world of innovation across industry, NHS trusts and other healthcare settings…

NHS App radiology letters available in Nottinghamshire

Patients in Nottinghamshire, who receive care from the radiology team at Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Trust, can now access appointment letters through the NHS App.

App users who have also registered with Patients Know Best can opt-in to receive their appointment letters digitally, with notifications delivered to patients’ smartphones. This means patients can find out about any new, cancelled or changed appointments.

It’s hoped this will provide a quicker way for radiology patients in the area to access key information and that it will put users in charge of the information they access through the app. Those who choose to receive paper letters will still receive appointment information through the post.

NNUH oversees first augmented reality neuromodulation spinal surgery

Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital has announced that the first augmented reality (AR) spinal surgery in the world has taken place on its patch.

Surgeons at NNUH used the latest video technology and Boston Scientific AR goggles to undertake a ‘complex spinal cord stimulation procedure’. The technology allows for remote support and teaching without the need for surgeons from elsewhere to be physically present.

As one of the largest neuromodulation centres in the country, NNUH offers ‘traditional spinal cord stimulation, DRG stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation’ which involves surgery to implant a device and electrodes into the spinal canal to reduce pain signals for patients with severe chronic nerve pain.

Spinal Consultant Nick Steele and team carried out the two-and-a-half hour operation with the assistance and support of neuromodulation expert Mr Chirag Patel in Cardiff, who provided guidance through a live link. Mr Patel was also able to freeze and annotate images that the surgeon could view through the AR googles.

Ann-Katrin Fritz, Consultant in Neuromodulation and Pain Management, said the virtual support from Mr Patel meant that NNUH could receive his support in the morning but that he was still able to carry out his own surgical list in Cardiff in the afternoon.

She said: “When procedures are complicated, this technology allows us to have another specialist available in another part of the UK and someone very experienced in that procedure. It is the next best thing to having someone scrubbed up at the table in the theatre and there are a lot of advantages to this. Having that extra support if we do have an expected difficult case improves patient safety and the chances of the procedure being a success.

“It has been a great success and it was great to have the additional virtual support to make it run smoothly. The patient was fascinated and very grateful for the surgery to happen in this way and we can treat these patients at the Norfolk and Norwich and not send them to other centres in Oxford or London.”

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS FT to launch VR training 

Ashford and St Peter’s Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is set to provide its staff with a new virtual reality (VR) training and educational resource.

Aiming to develop the trust to be a centre of training excellence, the Clinical Education team has expanded the simulated education facilities by installing a ‘fully immersive simulation multi-room suite’ within the Education Centre at the St Peter’s site.

The new equipment allows the user to experience and respond to real-life situations in a ‘safe and educative environment’. With the touch of a button, staff or trainees can now be transported to a variety of settings with 360° imaging providing an ‘all-round multi-sensory experience for learning’.

Users can be trained to prepare for real life emergencies including scenes of road traffic accidents, situations in operating theatres, or incidents on the London underground.

The trust says the suite has ‘revolutionised’ how it can offer simulated education to healthcare workers and has ‘opened up a whole world of considerations’ on how it could also be utilised for staff wellbeing, patient rehabilitation, and sensory stimulus, or for sharing within the local community at schools, ambulance services and primary care settings.

Suzanne Rankin, Chief Executive at Ashford and St Peter’s, said: “I am so excited about our ambition to become the centre of training excellence and this is one of the key milestones in that journey. Installing this world-class equipment will enable current and future generations to receive outstanding training as well as benefiting the wellbeing of our patients and the community.”

Northumbria Healthcare reveals new simulation suite

Sticking with simulation, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust has unveiled a new interactive suite, as part of its simulation hub, which recently celebrated its fifth birthday.

Described as a ‘high-tech’ suite, the new addition at Dinwoodie Assessment and Simulation Hub (DASH), which is based at Wansbeck General Hospital in Ashington, uses a three-walled set-up to help create realistic scenarios and settings for medical training and educational purposes.

Wards, rooms and operating theatres from across the trust can be photographed and mapped onto the walls to create a realistic environment, while the floor-to-ceiling touchscreens are used to illustrate and explore the human body.

As the technology is customisable, staff can create their own tailored training and the new suite was used to mark DASH’s fifth birthday at a ceremony in early October. The facility also houses a range of manikins, such as one which can sweat, froth, has dilating pupils and tongue swelling, and also has a pulse, heart and lung sounds, and tanks in the legs that store and eject blood from different points on the body. Other manikins include a mum that gives birth and a baby which can have seizures.

Dr James McFetrich, an emergency care consultant and Northumbria’s Director of Simulation, said: “The event was a nice way to reflect on the past five years and how far DASH has come, including not being knocked off its stride during the pandemic, but it’s also a chance to continue looking to the future.

“DASH is a forward-thinking facility which is always looking to explore interesting opportunities for further developments as it strives to provide the best possible teaching and training environment. All of this is in support of providing high-quality patient care.”

FDA authorises AI software that can help identify prostate cancer

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has authorised the marketing of a software called Paige Prostate, which can assist medical professionals with the examination of body tissues to detect areas that could be cancerous. The technology would be used as an ‘adjunct (supplement)’ to the review of digitally-scanned slide images from prostate biopsies.

The artificial intelligence (AI)-based software is designed to identify an area of interest on the prostate biopsy image with the highest likelihood of cancer, so that it can then be reviewed further by the pathologist if the area of concern has not been identified on initial review.

Paige Prostate is compatible for use with slide images that have been digitised using a scanner. The FDA evaluated data from a clinical study where 16 pathologists examined 527 slide images of prostate biopsies (171 cancer and 356 benign) that had been digitised. For each slide image, each pathologist completed two assessments, one without Paige Prostate’s assistance and one with its help.

While final patient diagnosis is typically based on multiple biopsies, the study did find that Paige Prostate improved detection of cancer on individual slide images by 7.3 per cent on average when compared to pathologists’ unassisted reads for whole slide images of individual biopsies, with no impact on the read of benign slide images.

Potential risks include false negative and false positive results, which it says is mitigated by the device’s use as an adjunct. and by the professional evaluation from a qualified pathologist who may perform additional laboratory studies on the samples prior to a final diagnosis.

Tim Stenzel, M.D., Ph.D., Director of the Office of In Vitro Diagnostics and Radiological Health in the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said: “Pathologists examine biopsies of tissue suspected for diseases, such as prostate cancer, every day. Identifying areas of concern on the biopsy image can help pathologists make a diagnosis that informs the appropriate treatment. The authorisation of this AI-based software can help increase the number of identified prostate biopsy samples with cancerous tissue, which can ultimately save lives.”

NHSX Analytics Unit PhD

NHSX and Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) are hosting a webinar on 20 October 2021 for those interested in the Analytics United PhD internship. The information session takes places from 1pm to 2.30pm and will explain about the scheme’s projects and past interns’ experiences and research.

NHSX will lead the workshop and PhD students with an interest in health data science and artificial intelligence are welcomed to participate, along with existing academics, while there will also be a Q&A session at the end. Interested parties can register, here.