It’s almost time for the Health Tech Awards 2021, which will showcase another year’s worth of excellent innovation, efforts that have gone above and beyond and ideas that are outside-of-the-box. To celebrate all of our fantastic finalists, ahead of the big reveal of the winners on 7 October 2021, we’ve compiled an article on every awards category, featuring each one of our finalists and their impactful projects.
This year, to mark the awards’ fifth birthday, our platform is more interactive than ever, and you’ll be able to find out more about the great work going on in the world of health tech through our dedicated web page, which acts as a portal to help you find out more about each of our featured finalists – for inspiration, learning and awareness.
In this piece, you can read on to find out about some of the best uses of cloud technologies across the past 12 months. Examples include new ways of working through a cloud-based phone system, diagnostic platforms for precision medicine, AI-powered reading of diagnostics tests, and a multi-party video consultation platform.
And, finally, before we delve into the excellent innovations and tech below, we’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who submitted and shared and their work with us – you’re all worth celebrating.
X-on – Surgery Connect
Our first featured finalist is the healthcare communications specialist, X-on. Through its solution, called Surgery Connect, the company utilises cloud technology to equip GP practices for effective patient communications in both a pandemic and post-pandemic world.
Surgery Connect, X-on’s cloud-based phone system, helps practices to manage local demand and meet national priorities, both of which can be exacerbated by often overloaded and outdated phone systems. By moving communications to the cloud and developing its products and services to address the additional needs arising from the pandemic, X-on has been helping to drive change. During the last year, X-on expanded its reach among GP practices in England and Wales by more than 35 per cent and Surgery Connect is now deployed in more than 835 GP surgeries, serving an estimated 8.5 million patients.
The cloud-based system, which is designed and tailored to meet the needs of GPs, practice staff and patients, counts unlimited phone lines, call-back, contact centre functionality, self-serve appointments and signposting to self-care and online services, among its features that can help reduce practice pressure. Real-time management dashboards also enable staff to prioritise resources, while automated SMS appointment and prescription reminders increase convenience for patients and reduce missed appointments, which cost the NHS more than £216m annually, according to NHS England.
Surgery Connect integrates all practice communications, with everything tied to the patient record, and many practices have also utilised the service to support remote working for staff through video appointments. A “queue busting” feature also enables patients to take a place in the call queue without having to wait on the phone for an available receptionist or GP. In March 2021, around 142,000 patients chose this option, saving 25 minutes each in queuing, as well as any additional call costs.
Dr Farzana Hussain, a GP in East London and an X-on customer, says: “I am very conscious of the need to continue to develop the ways in which we communicate with patients. Surgery Connect offers a great model built around the phone as the key channel supporting delivery of primary care. Three of the seven practices in our PCN have X-on’s Surgery Connect, so its product is widely used in the Newham area. I was interested originally in Surgery Connect because of its consultation recording… but there are many other added benefits too, such as the level of data that is captured by the system that can help in showing how easy or otherwise it is for patients to get through on the phone and how long they are waiting for.”
Diaceutics -Diagnostic Deductive Pathways
Diaceutics’ entry into this award category focuses on the application of machine learning and AI to identify the best possible testing journey for patients using DDPs® (Diagnostic Deductive Pathways).
The company says that DXRX – The Diagnostic Network® – is the world’s first diagnostic commercialisation platform for precision medicine, integrating multiple pipelines of real-world diagnostic testing data from a global network of laboratories. Through machine learning and the standardisation of millions of aggregated de-identified patient testing events, Diaceutics says it can identify the best possible testing journey or “Deductive Diagnostic Pathway (DDP®)” for patients at disease level, providing the industry with a guide to ‘getting the right medicines to the right patients, faster’.
Diaceutics launched DXRX – The Diagnostic Network® in 2020 to provide a ‘digital, scalable solution’ for precision medicine diagnostics in line with therapy launches, by integrating multiple pipelines of ‘real-world diagnostic testing data’ with a ‘vibrant diagnostics marketplace’. The company combines data from multiple sources including laboratory result data, diagnostic profiling meta data and CMS and commercial claims data into its DXRX platform, providing access to more than 365 million de-identified patient records globally, in 53 countries.
With 476 potential precision medicine therapies now in late phase of development and over 30 per cent of all FDA approvals between 2018-2020 being for Precision Medicines, the pipeline of therapies requiring a companion diagnostic solution is rapidly growing. Diaceutics has embarked on addressing this significant and pressing issue by building its data enabled platform, which has been designed to get ‘every patient the right treatment at the right time’ by identifying and solving hurdles in a therapy’s testing ecosystem ahead of therapy launch. To date, the company has leveraged deep disease level data analytics and implementation solutions to improve the diagnostic testing infrastructure for over 600 projects with 39 of the world’s leading pharmaceutical companies.
Diaceutics also says that the labeling of clinical data allows data-driven insights, providing a cleaner and easier dataset to work with, as well as allowing the creation of groupings and filters. By using a standardised six-step approach for better data, testing and treatment, it ensures that anyone working with the data has the same starting point with same patient cohort and methods. This means data can be analysed and aggregated at a high level quickly and efficiently, meaning ‘more patients get the right treatment at the right time enabled by DXRX’.
Sensyne Health – MagnifEye
The clinical artificial intelligence company, Sensyne Health is our next platformed entrant with its AI-powered reading and analysis of diagnostic tests – through the MagnifEye solution. As the COVID-19 pandemic increased the need for the accurate reading of lateral flow tests to support clinical decision making and disease surveillance, Sensyne Health developed a smartphone application that uses deep learning to automate the accurate reading of lateral flow diagnostic tests in under two seconds.
According to Sensyne Health, the limitation of lateral flow tests is their ‘reliance on subjective interpretation by the human eye’, which can be exacerbated in uncontrolled environments such as self-testing by the visually impaired, or in poor lighting conditions. With COVID-19, 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.
The company responded quickly to this challenge by developing MagnifEye, a deep learning, cloud-based algorithm that can read lateral flow test results beyond the human visible spectrum. It assists users and health professionals to perform diagnostic tests and share results, while the algorithm can be trained to read any lateral flow test and potentially reduce the risk of human error. Reading the lateral flow test takes under two seconds, providing organisations with ‘near real-time visibility’, and the solution 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.
The key features and potential benefits of MagnifEye include: improved accuracy of reading lateral flow tests; supporting healthcare provider-assisted testing programmes for high volume testing at multiple sites; near real-time visibility of population health; custom app development; potential greater test usage; and robust data security via Azure cloud with data domiciled in country of origin, encrypted and held in secure cloud storage with robust cyber security.
In March 2021, Sensyne 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, and results showed that MagnifEye increased sensitivity (the ability to identify positive tests correctly) from 92.08% to 97.6% 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, while a significant proportion of positive cases that were previously missed were detected. At Assisted Testing Sites (ATSs) the algorithm also identified 24.4 per cent of true positive tests that were missed by trained operators and sensitivity increased from 16 per cent to 100 per cent.
St Helens and Knowsley NHS Teaching Hospitals – Refero’s multi-party video consultation platform
St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (STHK) has submitted its use of Refero’s multi-party video consultation platform as its entry to this category. Using the digital solution for around 60 services, STHK utilises the telehealth platform to keep patients digitally connected with clinicians, via video consultation or messaging.
The trust originally piloted Refero’s telehealth and video consultation services with its Cancer Drains Outreach and Stroke Review services, so that clinicians could assess patients recovering at home remotely via video. The cancer service previously required specialist nurses to travel up to six hours a day to review patients’ drains and wounds but, with Refero, this was radically reduced.
According to the trust, in some cases, the telehealth programme has enabled operational efficiency of up to four hours per nurse per day, and a significant reduction in travel expenses for both nurses and patients – equating to a cashable saving of approximately £22,000 per clinic per year. The trust has also recorded that 100 per cent of its patients who’ve had virtual appointments have said this method is their preferred choice and that its did not attend (DNA) rates dropped from around 25 per cent to just 10 per cent in its Stroke Review Service since the introduction of Refero.
STHK also says that other benefits have included enabling clinicians to see patients in their home environments to gather vital insight, demonstrate new exercises, and solve problems and issues directly, while dieticians can assist patients with meal planning by virtually looking through kitchen cupboards and drawing up a diet based on ‘what they have in.’ Another example of use is a therapist being able to visit a patient’s home and carry out a ‘live’ walk through via video call, so patients can see how they will cope when they are discharged.
In response to COVID, within a few weeks, the Refero telehealth and consultation service expanded from two to 40 services at STHK to benefit patients across a range of services, including: Medicine for Older People Frailty Service; Speech and Language Therapy Service; Burns and Plastics; Breast Reconstruction Service; Gastroenterology; Liver Surveillance Service; Sexual Health Service; and Palliative Care. Around 1,000 patients are now digitally connected with the trust’s clinicians to enable continual engagement via video consultation or messaging through a web portal, smartphone or tablet.
Other new features also include secure waiting room call functionality, screen-sharing capabilities during a call and post-call follow up questionnaires. While the recent introduction of multi-party consultations allows the trust’s clinicians and patients to have video consultations for up to 50 participants. This has significantly reduced appointment administration time and supported the addition of family members, carers, interpreters or other clinicians on a patient’s video consultation.