News, News in Brief

News in brief: Moorfields’ AI project, new online booking for blood tests, UK Biobank cloud platform

This week has been a busy one for HTN. Not only have we released the second edition of our very own Digital Playbook, which this time focuses on solutions to support Integrated Care Systems (ICSs), but we’ve also covered a variety of stories.

Among the headlines have been industry updates – with RwHealth raising £6.1 million in Series A funding – and NHS news that University Hospitals Sussex has signed a five-year contract with the CardMedic app.

For the rest of the health tech round-up, read our news in brief below…

Online booking for blood tests at Lewisham and Greenwich

NHS Lewisham and Greenwich NHS Trust has introduced a new online booking system for blood tests. The platform gives patients greater control over their appointments, and seeks to solve the issue of long waiting times.

The platform is powered by Swiftqueue and covers ‘a dozen sites’ across the trust’s three boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham and Bexley. Next available appointments are displayed on the landing page, while patients can also use the tool to reschedule and cancel, and collate family members’ appointments. There is still a telephone ‘hotline’ for those who cannot book online, too.

Sue Marsters, Phlebotomy and Outpatients Matron at the trust, said: “This year to date has been a difficult one for blood testing in the NHS, with Covid-related backlogs on top of the national shortage of blood vials  creating delays for patients that we know have been incredibly frustrating.

“The Swiftqueue system is therefore a massive development for us, allowing our phlebotomists and support staff to devote more of their attention to the thing that matters – providing high-quality and timely care to our community.”

Bedfordshire’s blood test booking for children

Sticking with the topic of blood tests, Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust has also launched a new online blood test booking system – but this one is solely for paediatric tests and is available across both Bedford Hospital and Luton and Dunstable University Hospital.

Patients and carers can use either the online service, or a telephone service, to book tests for children of specific age groups at either site – patients under the age of 16 at Bedford, and patients under the age of 13 at Luton and Dunstable, with both sites accepting requests for those under the age of 18 with special education needs and disabilities.

The trust says, “with over 500 children being seen for blood tests at each of our hospital sites every month, it is important that we improve the way our service is accessed to a more convenient and efficient way. The new systems will eliminate the need to call just the one dedicated manned phone line, which will result in a better and easier experience for patients and their parents or carers.”

Moorfields’ AI research project

Moorfields Eye Hospital and St George’s, University of London are leading on a £500,000 artificial intelligence (AI) research project, which is being funded by NHSX and the Health Foundation, and is ‘enabled’ by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR).

The project will use AI technology to ‘analyse retinal images from diabetic patients to detect sight-threatening diabetic eye disease quicker and more efficiently than human specialists’. In addition, the collaborative work will also ‘provide evidence to support the commissioning and deployment of the first potential widespread use of AI within the NHS.’

Moorfields says that the project could provide ‘major benefits’ for the NHS Diabetic Eye Screening Programme (DESP) and will also ‘develop safeguarding systems to ensure that retina recognition performance does not vary across population sub-groups’, due to concerns over potential variability of performance in regards to gender and ethnicity, with technologies such as facial recognition.

Professor Adnan Tufail, a consultant ophthalmologist at the NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at Moorfields Eye Hospital and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology, commented: “It’s crucial that the first wide-scale deployment of AI in the NHS is safe and performs to a high level across the board. This project will develop the essential safety tools necessary, and monitoring systems to check the performance of AI after deployment to ensure trustworthy AI for the benefit of all patients.”

The Homerton University Hospital, Kingston University, and University of Washington, USA, are also partners on the project.

Funding for tool that calculates pre-eclampsia risk

A project proposal to develop artificial intelligence (AI) technology to calculate women’s risk of pre-eclampsia has been awarded funding in the latest round of the UK Government’s Artificial Intelligence in Health and Care Award.

King’s College London, which is working in partnership with the University of Strathclyde, the School of Biomedical Engineering and Imaging Sciences, the University of Birmingham and the charity, APEC, will receive almost £150,000 over one year.

Researchers want to develop the AI tech with industry partners and use it for determining individual women’s risk of pre-eclampsia, as well as the potential severity of the condition.

The project – called panPIERS – has previously also won NHSX funding, and the proposed tool will include ‘ethnicity, socio-economic status and details of the woman’s current pregnancy’. An app, co-designed with patients, midwives and doctors, will also be part of the work.

Currently, existing versions of panPIERS tools include miniPIERS, which includes details about individual women’s health and pregnancy, and fullPIERS, which also includes laboratory tests.

“Developing, validating, and implementing the PIERS models has been a 20- year journey to date…this award provides the opportunity provide individual pregnant women with high blood pressure, their families, and their care providers accurate information about their risks so that optimal shared decisions can be made about place of care and timing of birth,” said Project Principal Investigator, Professor Peter von Dadelszen, Professor of Global Women’s Health.

“This matters because pre-eclampsia carries increased risks of maternal death, stillbirth, and newborn death, as well as ‘near miss’ events when deaths are narrowly avoided. This is true whether a woman lives in London or Lusaka, Glasgow or Garissa – it is a matter of distributed, equitable, and excellent care,” he added.

CLEO Systems connects with GoodSAM on app-less solution for urgent care 

Urgent and primary care software solutions provider CLEO Systems has integrated the GoodSAM platform into its patient management system, CLEO Core. This will enable people calling emergency services to ‘instantly receive live video consultation from their device’ without needing to download an app.

CLEO Systems, whose patient management system supports providers to deliver healthcare services in out-of-hospital settings, has worked with its parent company IC24 to introduce this ‘app-less solution’ for urgent care video consultations.

Clinicians will be able to start video consultations at the click of a button via CLEO Core, with patients receiving a text message with a weblink to the ‘consultation room’, which they can then join virtually.

Mark Wilson OBE Medical Director and Co-Founder and Ali Ghorbangholi OBE Technical Director and Co-Founder at GoodSAM, said: “Our core ethos at GoodSAM is utilising technology to improve patient care and our app-less video system is designed for ease of use both by patients and clinicians especially in times of urgent need. We are delighted to be the NHS England chosen national provider and to partner with CLEO Systems and IC24 to bring this solution to their services”

UK Biobank reveals new cloud-based Research Analysis Platform

UK Biobank has launched a new cloud-based Research Analysis Platform (RAP) that will allow approved researchers to access and analyse its entire database, securely, and from anywhere in the world.

Intended to ‘increase scale and accessibility of resource’, the UK biomedical database says that the platform is ‘designed to accommodate the vast and increasing scale of genomics and healthcare data pertaining to UK Biobank’s 500,000 participants’.

The RAP is enabled by DNAnexus and powered by Amazon Web Services (AWS), and is expected to ‘accelerate both the speed and scale of health-related research’.

Previously, downloading  de-identified participant data for research has required ‘significant local storage space, computing power, and technical resources’. So, to democratise access to the resource further, AWS has also pledged $1.5 million in research credits to ‘support access for more researchers from low- and middle-income countries’, as well as early career researchers.

“DNAnexus is proud to partner with UK Biobank on this landmark initiative that combines our leading biomedical informatics platform and insight tools with UK Biobank’s genomics and clinical datasets. This global collaboration brings us one step closer to accomplishing our vision of democratising data access to drive innovations in research that profoundly impact patient lives,” said Richard Daly, Chief Executive Officer at DNAnexus.

SleepCogni raises £1.4m to enter US market

Sleep tech start-up SleepCogni has raised £1.4 million to scale its business to commercialise into the US market, which will involve preparing its medical device for volume manufacturing, development of an online platform and achieving first sales.

The company has developed a treatment for insomnia, which allows users to control their ‘wind down’ process through a handheld medical device and platform.

Through a combination of debt and equity funding, SleepCogni exceeded its £1.1 million fundraising target – bringing total investment to £3.2 million and company valuation to £7.3 million.

The latest funding round has seen investment from new VC, Chasnay Capital Partners, as well as SleepCogni’s existing investors and retail investors, and loan funding from the UK’s innovation agency, Innovate UK.

SleepCogni has also strengthened its executive team with the additions of Colin Greene, a former Apple executive, and Andrew Morfey, a former Finance Director at AXA Health-On-Line.

“The two key milestones reached, the clinical trial results which have shown a significant improvement for chronic insomnia sufferers and FDA registration in the US, positioned us very well to achieve this fundraise. I am very thankful for the continued support from our existing investors and thrilled to announce a whole new list of new investors led by Chasnay Capital Partners who not only offer investment but provide ability and experience to achieve global scale.” said SleepCogni CEO, Richard Mills.