Calling all digital health people in the North of the UK (and the South)

Sadly the DHACA Day in Leeds on 27th April had to be cancelled because of competing events on that day – readers are reminded of the next DHACA Day now in London on 21st June – agenda still to be set.

Elsewhere, Nesta has updated its European Digital City Index, showing the position at the end of 2016
of the top 50 cities in Europe for start-ups. Not digital health-specific though very interesting, nevertheless. TechCity have produced a more detailed website exploring why the UK is the Tech Nation of Europe, which is excellently animated. Though with little mention of digital health it is nevertheless an excellent read, and resource…and something to make those of us who are involved in the UK digital scene proud of our achievements. And if you are a supplier looking for opportunities to capitalise on the UK’s standing, what better than to attend Healthcare UK and NHS Digital’s International Digital Health Opportunities event in London on 25th April?

If you are still feeling international though less interested in exporting, perhaps you might like to attend (more…)

How to unblock that health data in your EHR? Blockchain. (UK)

The solution to that huge pile of patient-generated data, blocked and stymied in those non-interoperable EHRs [TTA 15 Mar], may be a system based on blockchain. DeepMind, Alphabet’s AI ‘skunk works’, is building a tool that it calls Verifiable Data Audit. It will be tested first in UK hospitals with which DeepMind is already working, including London’s Royal Free Hospital. What VDA will do is use cryptographic math to keep an accurate record of data used in the past to see exactly who is using health-care records, and for what purpose. When data is used, it generates a code based on all past activity. Any alteration to one part of the data alters the others and is quick to spot.

The UK test results will be interesting because, according to the MIT Technology Review article, patient records are considered to be highly fragmented. Another issue that DeepMind had in the UK was the NHS oversharing data with it for other projects, such as AI systems to diagnose eye disease, early warning signs of illness, and machine-learning approaches to guide cancer treatment. The VDA approach would, ironically, create an audit trail of that data. Another reason why we may be moving from Data Despare to Hope. Hat tip to contributor Sarianne Gruber of RCM Answers.

Innovate UK’s £12m innovation challenge; Chiaro gains £4.8m for women’s health tech

The Innovate UK Biomedical Catalyst program now has a £12m challenge program for innovative projects in several healthcare areas, including:

  • stratified healthcare (both therapy and diagnostic components)
  • advanced therapies (cell and gene therapy)
  • diagnostics
  • digital health
  • enabling medical technologies and devices

The fund was established by Innovate UK, the Medical Research Council and Scottish Enterprise. Deadline for challenge registration is midday 31 May. A few more details: projects must be led by an SME either working alone or with others; projects can range in size from £250,000 to £4 million and to last between 12 and 36 months; businesses could attract up to 70 percent of their project costs. Innovate UK/Gov.UK page.

‘Fem-Tech’ is a new term to this Editor, but it perfectly describes Chiaro with its smart pelvic floor exercise tool and app, Elvie. It was originally grant-funded by Innovate UK, but has gained an additional £4.8 million from Octopus Ventures and Allbright for a total funding of £9.6 million. It is profitable with direct sales of £800,000, which is another proof that innovators ‘playing the niches’ in the current fragmented environment may be the smartest of all. Plans include building on current major retailers including John Lewis and Amazon, developing three more smart female health products and expand into 25 countries. Innovate UK/Gov.UK page  Hat tip for both Innovate UK items to our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman.

Tender alert: London Hillingdon 24/7 telecare monitoring (due 5 May!)

Our Eye on Tenders, Susanne Woodman, has located a just-published telecare tender for the London Borough of Hillingdon UB8 1UW.

Description: The London Borough of Hillingdon (the Council) is inviting tenders from suitably experienced organisations capable of providing a Telecare emergency alarm system and 24- hour telephone support for the Council (the Services).

The specification is split across two service requirements;
A. Social Alarm and telecare 24/7 monitoring services;
B. Provision of an out of hours emergency answering service.

The London Borough of Hillingdon (the Council) currently operates 21 sheltered housing developments across the borough, consisting of 838 units. All sheltered housing accommodation is connected to the current Telecare call handling system provided by Jontek.

The current system is monitored by Council staff 24/7; this would switch 24/7 monitoring to an outside sole contractor. It is a three-year contract starting 1 September and ending 31 August 2020, with an extension of one year. The estimated value is £1.5m.

Application deadline is 5 May. More information is on the Gov.UK Contracts Finder page.

Health tech overstatement of the day: ‘a contact lens that tells you when you’re sick’

[grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/Lens.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]This Editor likes Gizmodo, and doesn’t want to seem overly cynical or critical, but here we go again with an article that gives the impression that biosensing contact lenses are just around the corner. Our Readers will recall Google’s much hyped glucose-sensing lens developed with Novartis/Alcon dating back to 2014 [TTA 27 Mar 15]. This research is out of Oregon State University and is testing a transparent biosensor which will detect glucose levels in tears. The biosensor contains a transparent sheet of IGZO (gallium zinc oxide) transistors and glucose oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down glucose. In breaking down the glucose, it causes the pH level to shift and generate a measurable change in the electrical current going through the IGZO transistors. The researchers project that 2,500 of these transistors could be embedded in the lens, enabling multiple sensors detecting multiple chemicals which could lead to disease detection.

Why raise the yellow flag? If the lenses are to be used for continuous monitoring or even short term, thick lenses (like the old hard plastic or gas-permeable) require a period of wear-in to get the cornea habituated to it, and even after, there is the hazard of corneal abrasion. Irritation is especially hazardous for diabetics, who have a greater likelihood of eye injury and also related vision problems. Animal testing of the current version is over a year away. They don’t yet have a way to power the lens sensors. Contact lenses with sensors for various problems (e.g. Sensimed’s lens for glaucoma intra-ocular pressure) and Samsung’s Gear Blink embedded camera have been prototyped for years and none have made it into commercial release. Cost is a major unanswered question. While the researchers are to be applauded for the approach and applying it to other chemicals detectable in the eye, disease-sensing contact lenses will take years to be commercially available, if ever, and the article largely makes them seem just around the corner. Thin films applied to the skin for vital signs monitoring seem so much more…wearable [TTA 3 Feb]. Research to be presented at the American Chemical Society‘s annual meeting today (4 April). Photo is artist’s depiction of lens, courtesy of OSU