A Cornwall tech start-up has developed software that it believes could save the NHS millions and reduce the pressure on stressed nurses.
Digital health is a topic NHS bosses in Cornwall and Devon have been working on since 2015 when the Government launched a consultation paper requiring local health and care systems to produce digital roadmaps for a paper-free £150 million ‘One person, One Digital Record’ five-year vision in place by 2020.
The idea is that each patient will have their own single electronic record which should make it easier for health organisations, GPs and dentists, social care providers and other health organisations to access, regardless of where the patient is.
Ultramed is a tech start-up based at the Tremough Innovation Centre in Penryn, its software should enable nurses to spend their time providing the care patients need and making clinical decisions rather than filling in questionnaires.
Dr Paul Upton, a former NHS anaesthetist and medical director with the Royal Cornwall Hospital and co-founder and director of Ultramed, said new disruptive technologies could save the NHS millions of pounds a year while giving patients more control over their own health and their medical data, currently the software has been taken up by four out of 50 NHS trusts throughout the country.
Dr Upton said that when you consider that of the 10 million visits made to hospitals in Britain every year about a third of patients do not need to physically go to hospital, one third of journeys saved would not only be good for patients but would also be good for hospital trusts who can then redeploy their staff to do other things.
Fewer journeys on the roads would also be good for the environment. And in remote locations, whether rural or insular such as the Isles of Scilly, that would mean a huge saving for patients – both in terms of time and money.
It comes as a report published by the Department of Health and Social Care from 2011 revealed that the NHS could save £65m a year if pre-op assessments were completed electronically.
He said: “We have a pipeline of dozens of Trusts around the country and we’re off to the biggest NHS expo in Manchester. We’ve been selected as one of 24 eHealth companies to show off what we do. We’ve got the support of the NHS centrally so hopefully this is a turning point.”
A pre-op assessment is an appointment with a nurse in a hospital where the patient goes through their medical history ahead of the procedure. Ultramed’s MyPreOp works in the same way as any pre-operative assessment carried out in hospitals throughout the country. Patients log in to the software from any smartphone, computer or tablet and fill in an easy-to-use questionnaire about their health.
Once it’s complete, it goes to a nurse to be reviewed – if you’re fit enough to not require a hospital visit ahead of your operation, that’s one journey to the hospital avoided, along with all the unnecessary stress, worry and added costs often entailed.
Dr Upton said: “The key thing about our software is that it empowers patients. You own your data and can share it with [the hospital]. It’s like having a bank account. You may give a statement to someone but it doesn’t mean they have access to your account and can do what they want with it.
It’s worldwide. So you can give your medical history to any hospital if you need to whilst on holiday overseas or if you’re moving home. It’s about switching data ownership of personal medical records.”
MyPreOp is a true Cornish eHealth innovation. Not only has it got the capital backing of Cornish companies and entrepreneurs such as Alan Sanders, owner of high-end digital production studio Sanders Studios but also Mylor Ventures – an Independent Corporate Finance and Venture Capital company.
Newquay based software development company Buzz Interactive built the software while Bodmin-based Elephant Kiosks designed the self assessment health kiosks which Ultramed use to show off its product at health conventions and is hopefully selling into hospitals too.
For Buzz Interactive, eHealth is a massive area of growth. Not only has it created Ultramed’s MyPreOp but it has worked with the University of Exeter on a revolutionary project to help patients suffering from Ménière’s Disease.
The research initiative is using mobile technology to transform the treatment of the rare and often poorly understood condition.
Ménière’s is an inner ear condition which profoundly affects the hearing and balance of around 160,000 people in the UK, yet there are large gaps in our understanding of how the disease is triggered and develops.
The University of Exeter Medical School asked Buzz Interactive to develop a mobile application which could record symptoms on a daily basis.
The Newquay team have been creating a database of information on the disease to help in their analysis and are feeding results straight back to sufferers – empowering them to manage their own symptoms more effectively.
Linking the mobile app with weather information from the UK Met Office, the research is also hoping to uncover associations between Ménière’s and meteorological conditions, a move that could see the tool used to send out early warning messages to people.
Lindsey Axten, director at Buzz, said: “As a result of our work with the University of Exeter, Buzz is now well positioned to make a move into the eHealth sector.
Our success with the Ménière’s application has highlighted how technology can improve patient health and wellbeing, and we’re really proud to be playing an integral role in this kind of collaborative research.”
A spokesperson for Bodmin-based Elephant Kiosks added: “A fully integrated and effectively utilised self health approach is the first significant step in a much needed health revolution. It will lead to efficiency in every sense and create the sustainability our NHS needs to survive while having a significant positive impact on the health and wellbeing of our society as a whole.
Our Elephant Self Health kiosks are designed to allow individuals to monitor and review these indicators which include readings of blood pressure, blood oxygen, heart rate and rhythm.
The readings and recommendations the kiosks provide connect directly to patient records – driving an integrated, proactive approach to our healthcare.
This can save time and money across the NHS while delivering a more effective patient service and peace of mind, reassurance and health education to many of the vulnerable individuals in our society.”
The University of Plymouth has been leading the way in eHealth research in the region for many years. Its EHealth and Productivity in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly (EPIC) programme is a £2.7m three-year EU funded project launched to identify the main health and social care challenges in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, and encourage local businesses (start-ups and established) to develop the solutions.
Led by Professor Ray Jones, of the School of Nursing and Midwifery, it is currently in year two – and has seen the launch of a £600,000 Challenge Fund to encourage SMEs to utilise the funding to test their ideas, develop their eHealth products/services and drive their innovations forward in the sector.
EPIC has also seen the creation of an app to combat dental anxiety and a project to develop dementia care robots. As part of a project that promotes the use of technology to enhance quality of care, Hannah Bradwell from the University of Plymouth visited care homes throughout Cornwall with Paro the seal, a Japanese designed robot seal that moves and responds to touch.
She said: “Paro the seal is really well researched, with published studies suggesting that benefits include reduced agitation and reduced depression – similar to the benefits of interacting with a live animal.
The advantage of course with robots is the removal of allergy issues, hygiene concerns and the risks of bites or scratches. But a challenge with products such as Paro is the price. We recognise that he’s unobtainable for most care homes in Cornwall, so we are investigating whether robots with a much smaller price tag could bring about the same or similar benefits.”
EpSMon is an app that helps people with epilepsy manage their condition between doctor visits. Developed by a team of partners including Dr Craig Newman, from the University of Plymouth and University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust, it is one of six projects chosen by the NHS to celebrate digital innovation within healthcare.
Dr Newman, Senior Research Fellow in the University’s Institute of Translational and Stratified Medicine (ITSMed), is an NHS Innovation Accelerator Fellow and led the app’s development alongside charity SUDEP Action, Cornwall Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and Royal Cornwall Hospital.
He said: “It’s great to see that the app is being widely utilised and given this platform within the NHS, because that’s the whole point of research and digital innovation – making a positive difference to those who need it most.”
The full original article can be found on the Cornwall Live website.
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