Innovation, News

Digital and data play key roles in Alder Hey Innovation’s new strategy

Alder Hey Innovation, a hospital-led innovation centre developed by Alder Hey Children’s NHS Trust, has published a strategy entitled ‘Today’s Child, Tomorrow’s Healthier Adult’ that aims to address healthcare challenges faced by children and young people.

The strategy shares the centre’s ambitions going forward, existing work and developments currently taking place.

It lists two key objectives: to tackle healthcare inequalities through pre-emptive interventions and individualised care for acute and chronic conditions, and to optimise healthcare by creating and developing physical, digital and automated solutions.

Alder Hey aims to achieve this through a dual approach, pairing the desire to unleash an innovative culture with commercial focus to create high impact products to generate income. This is to be enabled by “thriving partnerships”, the centre says, and new digital models of care, preventative interventions, health tech and therapeutics.

The operating model

Alder Hey Innovation shares a 10-point plan designed to help them deliver against their strategic objectives and deliver their dual approach.

  1. They will develop a “synergistic healthcare innovation ecosystem” based on co-located clinical services and the innovation centre, which will be available to academics and investors to co-create within the ecosystem.
  2. A “no boundaries innovation culture” will be implemented.
  3. Rights of the child will be at the heart of how the centre works.
  4. Models will be developed to promote and incentivise intrapreneurs within Alder Hey.
  5. There will be strategic alignment of innovation to the Corporate Strategy and business functions including research, digital and quality improvement.
  6. A streamlined route to commercialisation will be developed through appropriate governance, spin-outs and license deals.
  7. A professional brand will be in place to portray Alder Hey globally as an investable innovation business.
  8. Foundations will be laid for growth and expansion which will see the development of a dedicated co-located technology discovery centre with industry partners.
  9. The importance of levelling up and investing in paediatric research and development will be promoted.
  10. Alder Hey will implement a “daring to innovative” approach.

“The success of the innovation strategy will be dependent on ensuring the correct ingredients are in place,” the document notes. These ingredients are culture (a positive culture embedded throughout the trust); place (collaboration with a range of local, national and international partners); people (a strong collaborative team); and process (a repeatable model for delivering results).

Environment for problem solving

On place, the strategy states: “Innovation needs the right conditions to thrive, and The Innovation Centre has been designed to provide an environment to foster this: here diverse people and teams come together in one space to incubate ideas, share skills and spark together. The Innovation Centre is a purpose built 1000m2 space, distinct from the rest of the hospital but with close proximity to clinical experts, which allows for easy interaction and connection between patients, clinicians, engineers, academics and MedTech experts.”

The strategy shares information about the centre’s four labs:

  • The rapid prototyping centre, using early fabrication and design equipment “to create physical device prototyping” and thus allowing the team to move quickly from concept to solution.
  • AI and data lab, allowing clinicians to create “synthetic data sets and safe environments to test AI algorithms fast” and “prototyping digital user interfaces, data sets/solutions and their integration to hospital systems.”
  • Simulation/user experience lab, where clinicians work within the user experience and simulation labs to gather stakeholder engagement and test new ways of working.
  • Immersive lab, producing “realistic environments that allow acclimatisation to new concepts and technologies.”

Multidisciplinary working 

The team at Alder Hey Innovation notes a focus into three central groups with specialist expertise, working together to take a multidisciplinary team approach.

The first group is AIHQ, focusing on technical development and delivery; this team is comprised of leading data scientists and robotic process automation (RPA) and power app developers. They are responsible for managing data and creating new AI algorithms along with new RPA and power app processes. Key areas for this group include AI, health informatics, population science, data and automation.

The second group is called Launchpad – a team of innovation experts “working to scope problems, scout solutions and project manage the process… the innovation consultants wrap around the clinical and operational teams in the hospital, identifying the needs and challenges, searching for new technical solutions and working with partners to support the co-creation of new health technologies.”

Finally, the Growth Unit group is focused on commercial and business development. They work to protect intellectual property and legal contracting. The strategy notes that this group will grow in line with product development sales and expansion of industry partner and investment opportunities. In addition, they work with Alder Hey Clinical Research Facility, with facility staff collaborating with the Growth Unit team to support health tech evaluations, trials and in silico data studies.

Looking to the future, the document says that Alder Hey “are pioneering the creation of new roles, developing progressive job descriptions and talent management pathways for entry level innovation apprenticeships, graduate trainee schemes and clinical fellowships… Our ambition is to become an employer of choice with a distinct culture for innovation and rewarding career paths for clinical and operational routes.”

Process: systemic agile method

 “Our strategy is fuelled by a bespoke open innovation system, to rapidly identify real-world problems and bring the right partners together to solve those problems with innovative technology,” the document states. The centre employs a systematic methodology and stage gate process to validate all projects coming through its pipeline, in an effort to ensure that work can be monetised and made sustainable.

On page 23 of the strategy, the method is shared through a diagram illustrating the process from problem scoping through to deployment and beyond.

Harnessing technology

The strategy states: “We’re focusing on five of the most impactful emerging technologies, all predicted to deliver advancement in healthcare clinical practice over the next five –10 years.”

  • Pre-emptive AI & data using digital bio-markers, for use in detection, screening, prevention and pre-emptive intervention. AI medical devices will also be used with the aim of providing risk stratified mitigation and augmented clinical decision support tools.
  • Digital platforms: clinical and patient care will be delivered both physically and virtually in an aim to create a hospital without walls, connected by Internet of Things and self-management prescribing.
  • User Experience Child Wow factor: user interfaces and experiences will be developed with children and young people, to ensure that they support better patient outcomes and better compliance.
  • Health tech and digital therapeutics: this focuses on acute and chronic condition management, “screening & diagnostics utilising MedTech sensors, wearables, ingestible, implantable, and portable devices.”
  • Immersive technologies: applications for heightened visualisation, augmented reality and high-definition imaging technology to support “pre-operate planning and consent, surgical procedures, education, delivery of care for physical and cognitive therapies.”

Next, the strategy moves on to share information on some key areas of product development.

@nywhere hybrid health platform

The @nywhereTM Hybrid health platform is an interactive platform that provides patient care and a hybrid point of access for children, young people, families and clinicians, supporting treatment, condition management, education and coordination of healthcare delivery. Focusing on preventative care, the platform aims to make patient care personalised and accessible.

Alder Hey is working to develop the platform through a number of features, include remote monitoring; an engaging user interface; gaming, rewards and incentives; educational and self-care resources; real time Internet of Things data, a single engine and a data lake to collate disparate data sources for central intelligent decision-making; integrated records; appointment information; and a simple and single point of access for all.

The strategy also highlights areas where they are piloting this technology. This includes remote monitoring of cardiac patients by nurses; clinical research of remote weight and height measurement; vital signs monitoring for early discharges; measuring cystic fibrosis patients at home; develop obesity tracking and measurement tools; and immersive and gaming content production to support and reward patients for engagement in self-care.

AI, big data and digital biomarker

The second development area focuses on AI and data for individualised care and prevention.

“We are using existing data sources from Alder Hey and surrounding systems with AI algorithms to augment decision making and/or reduce admin burden,” the strategy explains. “This matters because it frees up more time for care. Through our work with the @nywhere digital platform programme we will also gather new high-quality unique patient data and digital bio markers to enable AI driven interventions, more personalised care and to create unique research opportunities.”

Ongoing work in this area includes using vital signs data for prediction of deterioration and sepsis; digital twinning of patient physiology to identify digital biomarkers for deterioration prediction; AI for optimisation of outpatient appointments; the Lab to Life centre, a big data collation for respiratory research; and digitisation and automation of workflows for optimising HR processes.

Looking to the future, the strategy adds: “We aspire to be visionaries of technology in healthcare and will continue to look to the horizon for new and emerging technologies that present possibilities to positively impact healthcare. Our strong strategic links with academia and industry provide access to skills, capabilities and insight – and through this there is immense potential to solve highly complex challenges through high performance computing, quantum computing, metaverse, advanced manufacturing and robotics and surface science.”

Strategic deliverables 

Finally, Alder Hey shares the six strategic deliverables based on the strategy:

  1. To unleash innovation culture by giving anybody at the trust the right conditions to innovate
  2. To establish an innovation knowledge economy and ecosystem with industry and academic partners
  3. To deploy one Alder Hey product that is globally adopted to deliver impact on child health and wellbeing
  4. To reduce variation in outcomes across chronic conditions for children and young people
  5. To be a financially sustainable business
  6. To deploy solutions that provide healthcare optimisation benefits around health economics, efficiency and investment

To read the strategy in full, please click here.