News, News in Brief

News in brief: suicide prevention tool launched, HDR UK update, AI cancer care project

It’s that time of the week again, when we collect the best of the rest of the recent stories from the world of health tech and health innovation.

In this latest edition we have a wide range of headlines, including a new free suicide prevention tool, an AI project to improve cancer care, a mental fitness platform, bioelectric technology news, and more.

And if that still isn’t enough to fill the health tech-shaped hole in your life, you can join us live tomorrow for our online event, HTN Now Focus Digital ICS.

All day, on Thursday, 21 October 2021, from 9am to 3pm, we’ll be joined by health tech professionals sharing their innovations and approaches to help with system-wide working.

In the meantime, find out the latest news across industry, academia and NHS trusts…

New Suicide Prevention tool launched

A new suicide prevention tool, called R;pple, has been launched. The tool aims to ‘connect people in crisis with help’, and also raise awareness of the lack of online mental health interventions.

By identifying keyword searches for terms related to self-harm or suicide, R;pple works by replacing ‘harmful content’ with trusted sources of mental health support. The browser extension product is free to download and has been available since its launch on World Suicide Prevention Day in September.

A simple extension for browsers, R;pple displays support, mental health helplines, and guidance to users before any harmful content, comments, videos and forums pop up. Instead, it provides an ‘immediate, vibrant display’ on a user’s device once they have been flagged as searching for online content relating to self-harm or suicide.

The alternative options the tool shares instead include call, text, webchat, self-help app, and pocket resources which are available for free, 24/7, from selected charity partners such as CALM, SHOUT, Grassroots, Jacobs One Million Lives and Hub Of Hope – the latter of which also recently became a key part of Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust’s mental health support signposting.

R;pple has already partnered with tech giants CISCO, Network Rail and also with NHS organisations to provide staff with mental health signposting. A guide on how to download and use R;pple is available here.

PRSB commissioned to research a standard for digital NHS staff passports

The Professional Record Standards Body (PRSB), an organisation which works with public and healthcare professionals to define consistent standards, has been commissioned by NHS England to do research into the development of a standard for digital staff passports.

PRSB held an online workshop to consult with health professionals on the topic on 19 October 2021. The idea being floated is that the digital passports would be portable between NHS organisations.

Research programme to look at using AI to improve cancer care

A new project is aiming to use artificial intelligence (AI) to improve care for patients with cancers of the prostate, breast and lung.

The Innovative Medicines Initiative (IMI), a joint initiative from the European Union and the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA), has announced that a new project called OPTIMA (Optimal Treatment for Patients with Solid Tumours in Europe Through Artificial intelligence), will bring together 36 partners from across 13 countries to work in this area.

As a €21.3 million public-private research programme, OPTIMA has the goal of designing, developing and delivering an interoperable, ‘GDPR-compliant real-world oncology data and evidence generation platform’  to potentially advance treatment for patients with solid tumours, focusing on these three particular cancers.

The project hopes to establish a ‘secure, large-scale evidence data platform for prostate, breast and lung cancer that includes real-world data from more than 200 million people’ and will host ‘datasets, data analysis tools, federated learning tools, AI algorithms and electronic decision support tools’.

Other aims and goals include developing ‘advanced analytics and AI models’ to ‘identify, prioritise and fill the main knowledge gaps in prostate, breast and lung cancer’ and ‘AI-based decision support tools that can be employed in electronic health records (EHRs)’ to help clinicians make decisions on care.

The project is being jointly led by Professor Dr James N’Dow from the European Association of Urology and Academic Urology Unit at the University of Aberdeen, and Dr Hagen Krüger, Medical Director of Oncology at Pfizer Germany.

Professor N’Dow said: “OPTIMA’s main objective is to harness the potential of AI to enable healthcare professionals to provide the most optimal personalised care for each individual patient living with prostate, breast and lung cancer and their families.

“This is an ambitious goal and one that the entire OPTIMA consortium is dedicated to delivering, building on the diverse knowledge base and expertise of our consortium members. By working together, we hope to deliver meaningful improvements in cancer care.”

New tool from Health Data Research UK

Health Data Research UK (HRD UK), the national institute for health data science, has released a new tool, called the Data Utility Wizard, to help improve dataset discovery.

The tool allows researchers to filter and improve the accuracy of searches for health datasets through the Health Data Research Innovation Gateway.

The latest addition to its toolkit is part of a wider mission to improve the discovery and access of datasets for the health research community.

By using the Data Utility Wizard, researchers will be able to search for and discover datasets listed on the Gateway using specific criteria and filters. According to HDR UK, the tool ‘deploys a simple, user-friendly interface that allows researchers to narrow their search for datasets by answering a series of simple questions’.

Released in “beta” format, the Data Utility Wizard’s development is based on HDR UK’s Data Utility Framework, which the institute says is a ‘foundational piece of work’ to help ‘researchers navigate datasets by categorising them across multiple dimensions’.

HDR UK is also welcoming user feedback from the research community as it seeks to develop and refine the tool.

Ben Gordon, Executive Director: Hubs and Data Improvement at Health Data Research UK (HDR UK), said: “In 2020, we developed a new framework to support researchers make more sense of the vast amount of datasets available to them. The Data Utility Wizard is the natural progression of this work, transforming the framework into a practical tool that supports the research experience; and represents another step on our journey of curating, categorising and improving the discovery of the UK’s health data.”

Fika raises £1.2m to focus on ‘mental fitness’ at work

Fika, an employer-led mental fitness training platform, has raised £1.2 million from the investor Rising Stars and a syndicate of 10 angel investors from the US and UK.

Founded 2017, Fika focuses on mental fitness and has a mission to ‘make mental fitness as normal and necessary as physical fitness’. The company has onboarded over 70 clients since January this year, including the retailer DFS.

An intelligent, scalable platform which aims to create a ‘proactive mental fitness culture within businesses’, Fika hopes to highlight the global mental fitness skills gap. Designed to prevent – not treat – mental health concerns, the platform aims to empower employers to support employees through a series of ‘short, personalised and evidence-based courses’, developed in partnership with performance psychologists.

Employees who use the service will receive ‘personalised training pathways’ aligned to their goals and to help them with ‘focus, confidence, motivation, connection, meaning, positivity and stress management’.

Nick Bennett,  co-founder of Fika, said: “You would never run a marathon without training, yet employees are consistently being put under pressure to perform their role without the relevant mental fitness skills or training. Our goal is to empower businesses to introduce a ‘day one duty of care’ towards mental fitness that reaches every employee.”

Gareth Fryer, co-founder of Fika, added: “We are delighted that Rising Stars and others have backed our mission to mainstream mental fitness. This investment is indicative of the impact our technology is already having, and will give us the opportunity to bring mental fitness into the mainstream so every employee, regardless of their role or financial circumstance, has the ability to train for life’s everyday challenges.”

New service evaluation to examine effect of NuroKor bioelectric technology on osteoarthritis patients 

A new clinical project which will examine the effects of the use of bioelectrical technology for pain management in patients waiting for knee replacement surgery, is set to launch this month.

The six-month project is a collaboration between the University of Wales Trinity Saint David’s (UWTSD) Assistive Technologies Innovation Centre (ATiC), The TriTech Institute at Hywel Dda University Health Board (TriTech) and NuroKor BioElectronics.

Supported by Life Sciences Hub Wales through Accelerate,  a £24million co-funded programme by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through the Welsh Government, it will review the ‘effectiveness and possible health economic benefits of NuroKor’s electroceutical therapy in the management of patients suffering from knee osteoarthritis’.

A wearable technology, it uses ‘bioelectric nerve stimulation’ to deliver ‘personalised pain relief, recovery support and rehabilitation’ for patients.

ATiC will work with NuroKor to discover the needs and experiences of people living with osteoarthritis and who are awaiting knee replacement surgery, to provide NuroKor with insights to help in the development of new electrotherapy technologies.

Gareth Healey, Head of Accelerate at Life Sciences Hub Wales, said: “We are delighted that the Accelerate programme is supporting NuroKor by helping to cultivate cross-sector collaboration. Multi-partner projects like this one are key for investigating the potential health and wellbeing benefits for patients and economic benefits for our health and social care systems. We look forward to our continued partnership with NuroKor, ATiC, and TriTech as we explore future collaborative opportunities.”