UK healthcare innovation gets big boost in Leeds

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The city of Leeds has long been a hub for digital technology, hosting organizations such as NHS Digital and NHSX. As a result, the region has become a hotbed of innovation, especially with regard to health technologies.

The Yorkshire and Humber Academic Health Science Network (ASHN) is one of 15 organizations in the UK established by NHS England to help with the adoption and use of innovative technologies in healthcare. Its tenure sees AHSN working with NHS stakeholders to uncover projects that can improve patient health and outcomes, lower costs for the NHS, boost economic growth in the region and even bridge the digital divide.

Innovation in healthcare technology was one of the topics discussed at this year’s Leeds Digital Festival.

At the festival, which ended last week, Sophie Bates, program manager at ASHN, spoke about what is needed to bring innovative technology to the healthcare industry. It’s an effort that involves nurturing new ideas, ensuring they match real-world health needs, offering business development advice, and coordinating the priorities of local and national organizations.

“It usually takes around 17 years for some things to go from an idea to routine clinical practice, which is a very long time,” Bates said. “So where we can help accelerate that – that’s really one of the goals that we have as an organization.

“This can range from an individual GP practice to the level of an integrated healthcare system and [we] will work with each of them to understand what their needs are and what their priorities are, ”Bates said. “We have a very broad understanding of the needs and priorities of the NHS, and it’s not just at the local level but also at the national level.”

Bates said his team can offer business development advice and gap analysis that may be missing from a company’s own research. And because ASHN works with so many organizations, it can provide information on comparable products under development elsewhere or already available.

The Bates team provides impartial support to organizations requesting assistance from ASHN, whether it is assistance with funding applications or referral to research organizations or companies. are at the earliest stage of their development.

When companies have gone through their clinical proof phase, ASHN can also help them find real-world validation, a critical step in proving that an idea will work outside of clinical trials.

Partnerships are essential for success

When it comes to innovation in the health sector, partnerships are essential. In addition to NHS support, ASHN works closely with a number of regional organizations, including Academic Health Partnership and Nexus at the University of Leeds. As a result, ASHN was able to support 2,500 businesses, creating 600 jobs and mobilizing £ 300 million in investment.

ASHN has also been running a digital accelerator program called Propel @ YH for two years. It is Yorkshire and Humber’s first regional digital accelerator and offers a cohort of SMEs in-depth master classes and a six-month program to support the growth of the company and increase its presence in the market.

Tim East, digital navigator at AHSN, said the program draws on a number of partners including Leeds City Council, Barclays Bank Eagle Labs, Leed University Nexus Building and Hill Dickinson , a legal organization.

“From the Propel @ YH program, [last year’s cohorts] continued to increase funding, increase investments within their organizations and undertake various projects for smooth growth in the region, ”East said.

Bridging the digital divide in healthcare

Developing an idea is only half the battle. Dr Luan Linden-Phillips, innovation adoption specialist at Leeds Academic Health Partnership, said an entrepreneur can have a product or service out of the box, but it still needs to be deployed in a healthcare framework for success.

Linden-Phillips said Leeds Academic Health Partnership and its partners discovered last year that there were significant gaps in the city of Leeds when it came to deploying new digital solutions. In particular, he discovered at least 116,000 families in Yorkshire and the Humber without access to a laptop, tablet or desktop. This digital barrier means that many innovations supported by ASHN may never reach the people who need them.

In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Leeds Academic Health Partnership has set up a program to donate devices to people currently excluded from digital. “We can’t always guarantee that we’ll be able to get a bunch of new devices, so we plan to use organizations devices when they replace them,” Linden-Phillips said. “Rather than [the devices] go to the big dump in the sky, we’ll take them and erase them, so there is no data breach.

Each device is sent to a third party company who tailors the device to the needs of the recipient. (People with sight problems would get software that makes text more accessible, for example.) Leeds Academic Health Partnership is also working with mobile networks to provide digitally excluded users with Wi-Fi access or data plans.

“If you are a digital entrepreneur with a product, it can be very difficult because you want your products to end up in residents who can use them,” said Dr Liz Mear, CEO of Leeds Academic Health Partnership. “In Leeds we have a program called 100% Digital Leeds and it is aimed at preventing people from being afraid of digital technologies.”

Through the program, Mears said, users could first learn how to book vacations online and then learn to use other technologies such as mobile apps. The goal is to show people how easy it can be to manage health conditions digitally, either through app-based monitoring tools or by booking online appointments.

“We are here to make life better. We want people to live longer and healthier lives. If you have a long-term illness, we want you to be able to manage it – and we know digital technologies can support it, ”Mear said. “We all know how hard our healthcare and care staff work and we want them to be able to be more efficient at their jobs and we know there are many digital products and services that can support that.”

To look forward

Recently, the NHSX released a framework outlining what success looks like in the healthcare system, outlining seven measures aimed primarily at Integrated Systems of Care (ICS) as the next step to continue to digitize services and build on progress. during the pandemic.

The framework was accompanied by proposals for managing the costs of digital transformation; this is a permanent problem because the mismatch between local and national priorities can lead to cumbersome and duplicated tendering processes.

“For the coming year, the NHSX is bringing together existing pots of funding into a national application process, called the Unified Tech Fund. The point of view is that from 2022-2023 we will see a shift away from national funding programs towards an allocation to ICS for local technology spending, ”said Linden-Phillips.

While the framework is for ICS, digital innovations will be needed to support NHSX’s ambitions.

Another indicator of success is considering using digital solutions to improve care by improving patient services, ensuring they receive the right care when they need it. Linden-Phillips said any innovations that meet these goals will be of particular interest.

“I am delighted to see a commitment to coordinating care and using the rich data sources we have, especially in the Leeds City area, to develop new technologies by collaborating with innovators and all of our partner organizations. “she said. .

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.


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