It’s time to reveal the Health Tech Awards 2021 finalists in the category of ‘Best Healthcare App of the Year’. With such an array of innovative and exciting apps, which often lead the way in personalising healthcare and handing back control of health to patients, this was a tough selection to choose from.
Find out more about this year’s finalists and their excellent apps below – and join us on a journey from mental health and chronic disease support for patients to secure messaging for clinicians, online appointments, video communications and more.
Alertive’s mobile application integrates with existing systems to provide healthcare workers with connections to colleagues and critical information.
The company aims to help frontline health workers to manage pressures by understanding the everyday challenges they face when communicating with colleagues and interacting with systems, and by identifying how its products can save them time.
The app is designed to fulfil three critical communication needs: the need to deal with urgent and reactive communication where workers need support, advice and information from colleagues in real-time; the need to initiate a structured process against a set of objectives that can easily be monitored; and lastly, the need to be kept informed of developments that impact a particular worker or their patients in a proactive manner, whether that be that diagnostic results become available or that the state of health of a particular patient changes.
Alerts and messaging capability supports the typical request for help use-case in a hospital – cutting out the potentially chaotic combination of pagers, bleeps, telephones and messaging applications to connect colleagues and communicate rich content in a format that indicates the level of urgency. A loud beep overrides a locked screen for urgent alerts, with less intrusive options for lower priority requirements and messages that respect the status of the user like being off-duty or on leave. The option to connect by role or person on duty is available as well.
Alertive says that studies it has run with an NHS trust in the Midlands showed that junior doctor’ could save 17 per cent of their time using Alertive, compared to their existing communication methods.
For more structured communications, Alertive’s clinical tasks and priorities capability is designed to capture thorough information on request and follow a known process whereby the required steps are carried out and reported, providing a real-time view of progress to the requester. This capability can help remove friction points when delegating a task – the requirements are prescribed up front to reduce potential confusion, the task can be allocated more effectively by communicating to colleagues by role and considering their current circumstances, and the reporting process is made less manual by using the feedback tools built into the application.
Potential use cases for event monitoring are broad, ranging from notifying consultants of the admission of potential high-risk patients, monitoring and recovering blood results from integrated systems or even automatically booking operating theatres and specialists for upcoming procedures. Alertive’s workflow engine empowers customers to design responses to activity or to subscribe to a particular type of information flow.
Belong.Life is also among the ‘Best App of the Year’ contenders. A developer of free and anonymous social patient engagement digital platforms for chronic disease patients, caregivers and healthcare providers, the company offers both cancer and MS apps, with over 1 million users on a global scale. Through its platforms, users can connect with each other, receiving and sharing information anonymously. It was created to change the way patients, families and physicians manage the cancer journey – through one ‘supportive ecosystem’.
Using over 1,300 AI and machine learning algorithms that analyse anonymised data from users, Belong personalises content so that each user sees the most relevant information for their particular stage. Ultimately, the company’s mission is to improve quality of life and quality of care worldwide, through technology, services, data and AI.
Belong’s first platform, Belong – Beating Cancer Together, was created as a comprehensive networking and management app for cancer patients with features such as customised content and patient support groups. Free and anonymous, the app provides on-call real-world experts, alongside patient engagement features like document management and appointment tracking.
AI is also applied in Belong’s clinical trial matching feature—a completely free service that matches patients to relevant clinical trials. Belong’s algorithms analyse all available trials around the globe in real-time from databases such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Clinical Trials Transformation Initiative (CTTI), using ML and clinical trial-specific natural language processing (NLP) algorithms. Belong has already served over 15,000 cancer and MS patients with this service.
The company also collaborates with research partners, and studies that use anonymised, aggregated data gathered from the Belong community have been published by leading organisations to advance our knowledge of cancer. Sample studies include insights on certain breast cancer drugs causing more side-effects than reported in clinical studies, and insights into the financial burden assumed by cancer patients, as well as how to assist them in avoiding it.
HumWell Private Limited
HumWell is a ‘social health tech enterprise’ that sees experienced health professionals and technology experts collaborate to envision a Pakistan where the ‘right to health’ is enjoyed by all. The app offers primary healthcare to any mobile user in Pakistan, 24/7, with features including detailed and maintained medical records, consultation packages, a healthcare library, on-demand doctor consultations, and information about nearby health facilities.
By utilising the concept of telemedicine, HumWell aims to provide reliable services to users, with the help of its professional medical experts. Through video calls, doctors can examine patients from a distance and offer round-the-clock primary healthcare consultation. The free healthcare library on the application was created to facilitate health literacy and ensure the provision of promotive and proactive healthcare services.
There is also year-round, 24/7 in-app technical support to assist with any problems and, for every user, HumWell maintains detailed medical records that are taken into account during medical examinations by qualified doctors. Patient profiles are consistently updated for future use and the app can guide people to any nearby, trusted healthcare facilities.
Calm Harm, an app to help young people resist or manage the urge to self-harm, has been developed by teenage mental health charity stem4. Created co-collaboratively, the app is free and provides an evidence-based early intervention. It has been downloaded almost 2 million times.
Aimed primarily at young people aged 13-19, the app can provide users with some immediate techniques to help break the cycle of self-harm. Developed by Dr Nihara Krause, a Clinical Psychologist, in collaboration with young people, it uses strategies from evidence-based Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) to help users learn to identify and manage their ‘emotional mind’, teaching impulse control, emotional regulation and tracking underlying triggers to harmful urges. It also helps users self-monitor and signposts to further help.
Calm Harm is based on the notion that ‘the urge to self-harm is like a wave – it feels most powerful when you start wanting to do it. Once you surf the wave, the urge will fade.’ Users can learn to ‘surf the wave’ by doing five or fifteen-minute activities in these categories:
- Distract – helps to combat the urge by learning self-control;
- Comfort – helps to care rather than harm;
- Express Yourself – gets those feelings out in a different way
- Release – provides safe alternatives to self-injury.
There is also a breathing technique to reduce symptoms of stress and anxiety. The Calm Harm app hopes to provide a sense of control to deal with problems, help self-reflection and increase motivation to ask for help. It also allows young people to access help if they do not meet the criteria for CAMHS referral, whilst waiting for treatment, or to help during treatment, and can offer support to young people who don’t want to access conventional services.
The tasks are targeted for different ages, while the app can be personalised, is accessible to marginalised groups and the tasks and creative development are updated regularly using user feedback. Calm Harm was also built to comply with NHS digital technology standards and is one of only 15 mental health apps listed on the NHS Apps Library. The app is private, with no identifiable user data collected, and it is also free with no internet access is required for its use.
Calm Harm has so far been downloaded over 1.9 million times in 215 countries/territories (Google Analytics). Downloads increased by 20 per cent during the pandemic, while stem4 developed guidance in the form of a booklet and animation which are signposted from the app. This included specific mood issues that may have increased during or as a result of the pandemic. For those unable to access the app digitally, it created a card pack version of the app called ‘Calm Cards’, and a localised version of Calm Harm has also been licensed to Leeds City Council and CCG as part of the city’s Suicide Prevention Action Plan.
The Care.Wallet app from Solve.Care helps users to manage their healthcare journey while retaining control of data and decisions. Acting as a ‘gateway’ to a range of digital healthcare networks, it uses blockchain technology and aims to give consumers choice over their healthcare options.
Selected examples of services offered by various healthcare networks accessible through the Care.Wallet include: the ability to find doctors and book an appointment with them; booking a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) ride to medical appointments; a shareable appointment checklist; trackable vitals such as blood pressure, body mass index and A1C levels; medications management; symptoms and side effects tracking for medications; Share How Are You Feeling Today (HAYFT) Care.Cards; the ability to give feedback to employers about work and health status.
Care.Wallet can be configured to help doctors and patients to monitor their health for chronic disease support and treatment, record health changes, provide treatment feedback and get a quick reply from the doctor. It can be set up to include information including medical records, list of the doctors’ appointments, and the prescription history, all in one place. This will assist physicians in easily accessing all the necessary information and can include medical history, a list of the patient’s allergies and the patient’s feedback on the medicines they are taking.
All patient medical data is secured on individual patient nodes. Using Care.Wallet, patients access their data, and provide consent for their healthcare data to be shared with any doctor. This means any new doctor can have access to a patient’s medical history instantly, provided consent is given. Consent can be revoked at anytime, once the doctor-patient relationship ends, giving users of Care.Wallet control over their healthcare data and journey. All events of the patients healthcare are recorded on an immutable ledger, which is easily auditable upon the patient’s consent.
The myo app is another of our entrants in this section. Its goals are to transform relationships in care and bring families closer to their loved-ones by allowing caregivers to share secure content, videos and messages.
According to the company it is 100 per cent GDPR-compliant and supports the care-ecosystem to communicate digitally and efficiently, and helps build more personal, trust-based relationships.
Describing an “information asymmetry between residents, caregivers and families in the care sector” due to those in care often being digitally-excluded or struggling to communicate independently, myo says communication can be infrequent, scattered across multiple channels, time-consuming, error-heavy and stress-laden.
Using the onset of COVID-19 to highlight the ‘digital divide’ in care, myo adds that it aims to bring “radical change to the way the care sector communicates,” through its fully-integrated digital communication system, which is suitable for a low-digital environment and specifically suitable for care homes.
The app allows for direct contact between residents and their families through what it describes as a “joyful social media platform” that provides “broad insight into full life in the care home” and gives a voice to caregivers, disrupting the “negative communication cycle.”
The services from myo were temporarily offered for free during COVID, until the situation stabilises and, as a result, the company says myo has had an 800 per cent increase in usage among existing clients – while adding over 2,000 families.
Last but not least, we take a look at Sensyne Health’s app, MagnifEye. It provides AI-powered reading and analysis of diagnostic tests via a smartphone. Developed in January 2021, the application uses deep learning to automate the accurate reading of lateral flow diagnostic tests in under two seconds.
As the COVID-19 pandemic increased demand for rapid, accurate reading and reporting of lateral flow tests, Sensyne Health says a limitation of the tests is their reliance on subjective interpretation by the human eye, a problem which can be exacerbated when their use is expanded to uncontrolled environments such as self-testing by the visually impaired, or in poor lighting conditions. In the case of COVID-19, the company says this can lead to positive cases being missed when the positive test line is present, but too faint to be detected by the human eye.
Sensyne responded to the challenge by developing MagnifEye, a deep learning, cloud-based algorithm that can read lateral flow test results beyond the human visible spectrum. MagnifEye assists users and health professionals to perform diagnostic tests and share results. The algorithm can be trained to read any lateral flow test and reduces the risk of human error. Reading the lateral flow test takes under two seconds, providing organisations with near real-time visibility of individual and aggregated health status to support decision making.
MagnifEye is available as a complete app or alternatively, the photo capture and/or image processing algorithm can be provided as an SDK (Software Development Kit) or as an API (Application Programming Interface) for use on both Android or iOS phones, to be incorporated into existing apps. The app also allows users to manage test results for others and, for organisations, an analytics dashboard provides enterprise-level oversight of individual and aggregated health status.
In March 2021, Sensyne Health signed an agreement with the Department of Health & Social Care (DHSC) to pilot its MagnifEye technology for use with the Innova COVID-19 lateral flow test. The pilot study took place in April and tested MagnifEye on over 100,000 real world cases. The results of the pilot showed that MagnifEye increased sensitivity (the ability to identify positive tests correctly) from 92.08 per cent to 97.6 per cent and specificity (the ability to identify negative tests correctly) from 99.85 per cent to 99.99 per cent in reading lateral flow tests, as compared to a human reader. At Assisted Testing Sites (ATSs) the algorithm identified 24.4 per cent of true positive tests that were missed by trained operators.
Following the pilot study, as well as being granted an MHRA authorisation of special use, the company has now signed a production contract with the DHSC as part of the UK government’s asymptomatic testing programme. The scope of this contract with DHSC is for a phased national roll-out over a three-month period in care homes, GP practices and selected private sector organisations with large workforces.
QuiT Covid (Quantitative intelligent tracking for Covid)
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals (LTH) NHS Foundation Trust’s ambition was to maximise COVID infection prevention and control (IPC) by using digital solutions. LTH built an app to track positive patients using laboratory data from COVID tests, and through co-creation between wards, informatics and IPC teams. This resulted in live, occupied bed inpatient views and heat maps of COVID status, allowing timely separation of patients onto COVID-19 specific wards.
Rigorous location mapping led to granular tracking of every patient’s location (from A&E entry to discharge), every infection episode, ward resources, vaccination status, swabbing compliance, automated notification and contact tracing. The QuiT Covid app critically supports IPC and is used daily hospital wide.
The trust says that during September 2020’s second wave, focus was on nosocomial and outbreak data. The app showed increasing numbers of “Hospital Onset – indeterminate”, indicating that patients could be catching COVID through early contact in the emergency department (ED). The granularity of location data within the trust required improvements and every patient bed was re-mapped within the EPR.
Ward staff were engaged with a large data quality exercise and the importance of bed tracking, while patient locations were mapped and assigned to ED cubicles so that they could be tracked at every part of the journey and so that contacts could be minimised within ED. The app could then understand every patient contact, including whether COVID negative patients had been close to any positive patient within a 16 day window and it was able to automatically assign patients to Green, Blue, Amber or Red categories. This supported contact tracing, allowed understanding of transmission hot-spots and root cause outbreak analysis.
Other outcomes, according to the trust, included: timely identification of patients with COVID and their separation from non-COVID patients; the ability to report local and national requirements accurately and rapidly; the adoption of a continuous improvement culture with multi-disciplinary co-creation building a relationship between multiple teams and highlighting the importance of data for changing behaviour and achieving high levels of IPC; a culture of IPC measurement and tracking, starting from as soon as a patient enters the hospital.
The trust adds that a “combination of people, process, culture and technology has led to a digital transformation of IPC within LTH. The combination of fully engaged leaders, continuous IPC training and engagement, together with measurement of proficiency and performance has ensured high adoption across the trust in all wards and clinical areas with successful outcomes.”
LTH says that the technology is now also being pushed to improve patient safety in multiple other areas including Clostridium difficile and MRSA, while the experience will be used to support wider adoption across the Lancashire and South Cumbria Integrated Care System (L&SC ICS), as well as to provide real-time intelligence on LAMP testing compliance.