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Digital Leaders Week: Collaboration for Healthcare Transformation

Nathan Woodley
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We are in an era of Health unprecedented healthcare change, driven by increasing need and accelerating technology opportunities.

Even before the pandemic, those within the digital arena were pushing to modernise the UK health system through the broadest range of digital technologies.

It is no secret that the NHS is under increasing pressure and has been for some time, but solutions to relieve parts of that pressure are emerging. The question is: how do we use them in the best way possible?

At this year’s Digital Leaders Week, the Health and Wellbeing Business Manager at the Satellite Applications Catapult and pioneer of the Healthy Living Lab at Westcott, John Vesey, hosted a virtual panel of health-technology experts to discuss the co-creation of healthcare solutions.

The talk began with an introduction from John, before welcoming Simone Bilton, Senior Product Manager at Visionable – a video and medical imaging technology firm; and Nicola Savage, Marketing Director at Excelerate – global connectivity specialists.

Visionable and Excelerate work together on delivering healthcare in remote and hard to reach locations, having initially been introduced by the Catapult.

The discussion centred around how the effective development and implementation of technology needs to be driven from the customer challenges rather than shoe-horning technologies to fit the problem.  

Integrating feedback into the design of healthcare solutions is therefore essential. So is striking the right balance between local level solutions and the wider market.

You can’t improve complicated care pathways such as stroke without involving the community. We need to ensure we are doing it in the right way – making sure you go on the journey together”, said Simone.

That’s the difference between being a technology provider and a technology partner.

Both Visionable and Excelerate utilise this ideology to develop world-beating connectivity solutions to cater for a global audience.

Collaboration is hugely important to us as an organisation and what we’re doing here. I think its really important to the end-users as well,” said Nicola.

It’s a continuous development…In the age of digital transformation, flexibility and the ability to deliver is so, so important.

It is no surprise then that the conversation soon shifted to the Healthy Living Lab, which provides a space for both healthcare and technology providers to co-create meaningful technologies to improve the healthcare service.

“For me, the Living Lab is fantastic. It’s a physical space. We can showcase [Visionable’s technology] remotely or people can actually come, safely, to experience the difference settings we’ve got. We’ve undertaken a great deal of work around…the testing with Excelerate and the co-creation around the vision of a better-connected ambulance. Our software is optimised to work over high latency, low bandwidth, so being able to actually test that out in a real environment with all of the connectivity which the Living Lab can provide is brilliant.

But it’s also a really good co-creation space. So, we’ve done workshops and have been able to bring people together using [the Living Lab] as a facilitation engine, and that’s been really useful as well”, said Simone.

The theme of collaboration continued into the second half, with Adrian Smith of West Midlands 5G (who also heads Digital Transformation at the NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit) and James Cameron, Head of Life Sciences at the Highlands and Islands Enterprise who have supported Corporate Health set up in Scotland, joining the panel to discuss their work together on endoscopies.

Bowel Cancer – one of two cancers that if found and treated early enough is fully curable – is typically diagnosed by identifying potentially cancerous polyps within the colon. Unfortunately for those seeking a diagnosis in the past, the traditional route has been via an endoscopy (which involves a camera attached to a tube, inserted in an orifice, to search for the precursors). The procedure is invasive and uncomfortable. However, left untreated, bowel cancer can be deadly.

Although swallowable cameras have been around for more than 15 years its only now that, as Adrian and James explained, the technologies are available to offer a ‘pillcam’ based device at scale.

And thanks to the Healthy Living Lab, they have a space to test the technology and find ways to overcome some of the challenges Covid has created.

We’re excited to be working with the Living Lab and looking at ways in which we can use connectivity to deliver endoscopies in the comfort of your own home…if you can describe an endoscopy as something you can do in comfort”, said Adrian.

And it is all about collaboration – exactly as Nicola and Simone were saying. It needs the NHS, it needs local authority, it needs commercial partners, it needs hospitals, patients, all to be excited about the potential for this to happen.

Perhaps excitement is all that is needed. Pill Cam technology has been around since the early 2000s in countries like the US, yet the UK has been slower to adopt it due to the fragmented design of our NHS.

The Living Lab approach helps to “accelerate the awareness” of these emerging technologies to demonstrate that scaling up can happen at a much faster rate, bringing stakeholders together.

To make it really work, you need an innovative [health] service and you need the whole system to work together, and the Healthy Living Lab approach helps empower that whole system” added James.

At the heart of this all is connectivity, advances in which bring all these ideas together.

But collaboration between technologies is also needed to scale up – especially with capsule endoscopies where 400,000 images per patient need to be reviewed. Without Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence (AI), delivering Colon Capsules regionally and nationally is not possible; AI is fundamental to ensure that the NHS is getting the best value possible. The more we can scale up solutions, the more we can demonstrate the effectiveness of these technologies. And the Living Lab, again, is a place for this collaboration to happen.

After bringing Simone and Nicola back into the conversation, the talk concluded with discussions about the organisations working together to help improve healthcare, before a short Q&A.

James concluded, “The issues and challenges are there. I think the Healthy Living Lab can bring it all together”.

Either embed video at bottom or write: A full video of the event can be found on the Satellite Application Catapult’s YouTube channel here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XP3CF1blP80

For more information on the Healthy Living Lab, please visit: https://sa.catapult.org.uk/living-lab/