News, News in Brief

News in brief: innovations to tackle patient backlog and cancer care, first clinical use of accessible incubator

The snow is falling at HTN HQ, which means it’s a good excuse to wrap up warm, grab a cuppa, stay indoors, and read all about the latest health tech news in our round-up.

Last week, the headlines were all about the plans to merge NHS Digital and NHSX into NHS England, following the Laura Wade-Gery review. So, HTN asked readers and experts to share their industry views, and documented the discussion on social media.

Elsewhere, other news included a new platform to support children’s mental health and a national digital record for young people with epilepsy.

But what about the rest? Here are our usual news bites, featuring updates from across industry, the NHS, and beyond…

Bedford and Luton introduce tech to tackle backlog

Hospitals in Bedford and Luton have introduced new technology that will help maximise the use of their operating theatres by providing an accurate view of future theatre booking slots and surgeon availability.

It’s hoped the system will enable the hospitals to plan more operations, with estimates that an extra 36 patients could be treated every week as a result. The solution has been secured as part of a national £160 million accelerator initiative to ‘help tackle backlogs and increase capacity in elective care’.

Chris Elliott, General Manager of Anaesthetics, Clinical Care and Theatres at BHFT, said: “Innovations in theatre bookings like this are a great example of work being done to mitigate the effect of COVID-19 on elective care and helps us to treat more patients. We still have a long way to go towards full recovery but these changes will make a big difference.”

Doncaster and Bassetlaw develop digital solution for cancer care

Doncaster and Bassetlaw Teaching Hospitals (DBTH) has created a digital solution to help improve cancer care locally.

The Cancer Services Department worked together with the Digital Transformation Team to implement a new electronic referral process, which aims to ‘improve timeliness’, as well as reduce adminsitration.

The new system means that patients who are diagnosed with cancer, following a referral and diagnostic tests, have their care options discussed by a ‘team of multi-skilled specialists’, and receive appropriate treatment quicker.

This is achieved through the integration of two existing computer systems – the Integrated Clinical Environment (ICE), which is the trust’s electronic referral system, and Infoflex, a cancer management system. Referrals on ICE are now ‘instantly received’ into Infoflex, which generates a worklist for co-ordinators, who will then arrange the discussions with multi-disciplinary teams. When a patient is added to a multi-disciplinary teams (MDT) list, their relevant information is automatically populated from the system.

Dr Neelam Dugar, Consultant Radiologist and Clinical Lead for the ICE MDT Project, said: “The new ICE MDT referral process is improving patient care by way of saving valuable time to start treatments. Receiving a cancer diagnosis can be a worrisome time and the shorter the time between diagnosis and beginning treatment, the better for our patients both medically and for their mental wellbeing.”

2 million users registered for eLearning

According to Health Education England (HEE), 2 million registered users are now accessing health and care training through the organisation’s eLearning for healthcare (HEE elfh) online platform.

The milestone has been reached after the platform provided support for learning during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, when much face-to-face learning was paused or postponed.

Additionally, for the first time, learners from the social care sector were provided with free access to the courses and, overall, HEE says that ‘access during the pandemic rose from approximately 500,000 sessions a month to 200,000 sessions a day’.

Presently, users can access over 450 elfh programmes, free of charge, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.

Director of Innovation, Digital and Transformation, Patrick Mitchell, said: “I am delighted that so many people have registered and are benefitting daily from the elfh programmes available. We update the materials on a regular basis, and they are all approved by health and care experts before being launched.

“Access to online training and resources has been a lifeline for many colleagues during the pandemic. It has kept their education on track through a difficult time when increased knowledge and learning have been essential for both individuals and the health and care the system.”

First clinical use of accessible neonatal incubator 

A new neonatal incubator has been put into clinical use for the first time, with the innovation debuted in a UK hospital earlier in November.

The accessible incubator, which is co-funded by Innovate UK, ‘helped to sustain a premature baby’ at St Peter’s Hospital in Chertsey, and is intended to be a ‘cost-effective’, ‘compact’ and ‘easy to maintain’ alternative to traditional incubators.

Called the mOm incubator, the innovation is intended for use in ‘challenging, low and middle income settings’, as well as being able to act as a ‘flexible option’ for neonatal care in the UK and beyond.

The innovation was designed with this in mind, with James Roberts, Founder and CEO of mOm, stating: “Sustaining a child’s life in our incubator for the first time has been a humbling experience and a monumental step in transforming this dream into a practical reality.

“It is unacceptable that one million premature babies die each year, when most of these deaths can be easily prevented. An idea that was once scribbled down on paper now has the potential to impact many lives globally.”

Richard Hebdon, Director of Health and Life Sciences, Innovate UK, added: “Innovate UK, as the UK’s innovation agency, is a proud supporter of the mOm incubators technology. Its cost-effective technology means it can be a more flexible option here in the UK and has great potential in developing countries all over the world.”

GE Healthcare and Optellum Collaborate on AI lung cancer diagnosis

The companies GE Healthcare and Optellum have announced their intention to collaborate on the advancement of ‘precision diagnosis and treatment of lung cancer’ through artificial intelligence (AI).

GE Healthcare, a medical imaging solutions supplier, and Optellum, which provides AI decision support, will work together to address ‘one of the largest challenges in the diagnosis of lung cancer’ – helping providers to ‘determine the malignancy of a lung nodule’.

Optellum’s Virtual Nodule Clinic ‘identifies and scores the probability of malignancy in a lung nodule’, which is described as ‘key to determining whether biopsy is necessary, and accelerating diagnosis’.

GE plans to collaborate on the distribution of the Virtual Nodule Clinic and to integrate the platform with AI solutions powered by GE Healthcare’s Edison platform. The companies also ‘intend to bring results from Optellum’s Lung Cancer Prediction AI into the existing workflow of various GE Healthcare technological pathways, including CT and PACS’.

Ben Newton, General Manager of Oncology Solutions at GE Healthcare, said: “The precise diagnosis of lung cancer can greatly improve patient prognosis. The integration of imaging and medical device data from the Edison Platform with AI-enabled solutions like the one offered by the Optellum Virtual Nodule Clinic has the potential to streamline clinician workflows and advance our goal of making precision healthcare, taking the right action at the right time for every patient, at scale, as widely accessible as possible.”

University entrepreneur incubator programme includes health tech

In University of Edinburgh news, around 20 start-ups, including health tech and cancer-focused innovations, have been selected for the institution’s incubator programme, which is aimed at ‘developing and commercialising academic entrepreneurship’.

The Venture Builder Incubator 2.0, part of the Data-Driven Entrepreneur Programme, is supported by Edinburgh Innovations, and delivered by the Bayes Centre.

The start-ups that have been selected include eight companies operating in the field of cancer, following news of a partnership between the University and Cancer Research UK, which will support PhD students and researchers in developing and accelerating commercialisation of ideas.

The cancer-focused ventures include: NanoTara, a potential method for early cancer diagnosis using magnetic nanorobots; 10zyme, a start-up focused on detecting cancers through urine or saliva samples; and ForceBiology, which aims to develop a ‘versatile, more accurate and cost-effective high throughput’ drug-screening platform.

Another health tech-related innovation mentioned is Zoforia Technologies, the developer of an online wellbeing platform for children. All of the ventures will be given £2,000, plus business support through workshops, networking, peer to peer learnings, and more.

Charlotte Waugh, Enterprise and Innovation Programme Lead at Edinburgh Innovations, said: “We are delighted to welcome some of the most promising entrepreneurial students in Edinburgh along with leading academic researchers from other parts of the UK to participate in Venture Builder Incubator 2.0. The programme features 20 companies that have been engaged in academic research to address some of the world’s major challenges including the climate emergency, health and wellbeing, children’s mental health, and financial security.”

Laura Bernal, Venture Builder Incubator Programme Manager, added: “We’re delighted to welcome all our new cohorts including the eight start-up companies recruited in partnership with Cancer Research UK (CRUK), with ideas to transform the way we treat cancer.  These companies are focused on developing early diagnosis tools and less invasive testing to enable better and quicker treatments and improved outcomes for cancer patients.”

South Coast Medical Group to work with my mhealth

Finally, South Coast Medical Group is promoting its initiative to provide my mhealth apps, which help patients to manage long-term conditions such as COPD, asthma, diabetes and heart disease, for free to all people in Dorset.

In a post on Twitter, the Group explained that it is “working in conjunction” with my myhealth to give all people in the area access to the digital tools, and directs patients to the referral form to set up an account.

Find out more, here.