NHSX announces TechForce19 challenge awards (updated), COVID-19 contact tracing app in test for mid-May launch (UK)

NHSX, the group within the NHS responsible for digital technology and data/data sharing, made two significant announcements yesterday.

TechForce19 Challenge Awarded

NHSX, with the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), yesterday announced the 18 finalists in the TechForce19 challenge. This challenge was set up quickly to support the problem of vulnerable, elderly, and self-isolating people during this COVID-19 quarantine to reduce actual and feelings of loneliness and lack of safety.

Like most everything around coronavirus, this was fast tracked: the challenge announcement in late March, submissions closing on 1 April, and the selection announced on 24 April. Each finalist is being awarded up to £25,000 for further development of their technology systems.

The 18 finalists include a number of familiar names to our Readers (who also may be part of these organizations): Feebris, Neurolove, Peppy, Vinehealth, Beam, TeamKinetic, Alcuris MemoHub, Ampersand Health, Aparido, Birdie, Buddi Connect, Just Checking, Peopletoo/Novoville, RIX Research & Media (University of East London), SimplyDo, SureCert, VideoVisit, and Virti. Their systems include checking for the most vulnerable, volunteering apps, mental health support, remote monitoring, home care management, and in-home sensor-based behavioral tracking. Details on each are in the NHSX release on their website. NHSX partners with PUBLIC and the AHSN Network (15 academic health science networks). Hat tip to reader Adrian Scaife

Updated 29 April. Adrian was also kind enough to forward additional information to Readers on Alcuris MemoHub (left) as a finalist in the remote care category. Partners in the test are Clackmannanshire and Stirling Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP), East Lothian HSCP, South Tyneside Council, and Stockton on Tees Borough Council and last for about two to three weeks. Release

COVID-19 contact tracing

NHSX announced the release, in coming weeks, of a contact tracing app to track your movements around people and if you become positive for coronavirus, “you can choose to allow the app to inform the NHS which, subject to sophisticated risk analysis, will trigger an anonymous alert to those other app users with whom you came into significant contact over the previous few days.” The app is being tested in ‘early alpha’ at RAF Leeming (Computer Weekly). The app will tell users that they are OK or if they need to self-isolate. Far more controversial, if one cares about privacy, despite all the caveats. Based on the articles, NHSX is targeting a release of the app by mid-May according to the BBC, which also broke the RAF test. It will presumably acquire a snappy name before then. ComputerWeekly 24 April (may require free business registration), Matt Hancock Commons statement 22 April

Large Leeds rollout: is this NHS acceptance that apps can sometimes replace drugs?

A new app that can replace expensive, side effect-prone, drugs has been developed by Yorkshire tech company ADI (disclosure which manages the admin for this editor as Managing Director of DHACA, and provides one of DHACA’s three Directors), with assistance from Harrogate-based Inhealthcare.  It is set to ease the burden on the NHS, alleviating daily chronic pain, initially available for some 7,000 patients it Leeds, making it one of the largest digital health services to be commissioned in the UK.

The app, called Painsense, will be free for patients to use. It gives them the knowledge, skills and guidance to manage their pain, which should reduce the need to visit their GP or hospital. It will be rolled out across other regions of the UK within the next six months.

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“Events, dear boy, events” (UK)

Harold Macmillan probably never said that in response to the question “What is most likely to blow a government off course?”, however we thought we’d use the quote to highlight a few cracking events coming up.

The Wearable Technology event, is being hosted by the Digital Catapult Centre, on 18th November, in London. On the topic of wearables, the BBC’s “the Bottom Line” had a great programme on 30th October on the subject. In the UK (at least) you can download a podcast or listen on iPlayer. There’s also an update on new Jawbone releases which seem now to be going for different form factors to the original UP, whose unreliability resulted in this editor being on his fourth such device in some 15 months. Info on Microsoft’s Band is here. The recent PWC report on Wearables is here.

At the same place starting on Monday 8th December there is a whole week of incredibly valuable assistance in the Digital Health Pit Stop, which is free! Events include a design day (8th), a business day (9th), a health day (10th), a data day (11th) and on 12th December (more…)

Medvivo: correction

On 13th July this editor wrote a piece entitled “Wearables & mHealth: a few observations “ which included a paragraph on staff reductions at Medvivo which we suggested might be a part of an overall reduction in Medvivo’s engagement with telehealth. We had tried to contact the company beforehand, without success, however following publication of the story, this editor was then contacted by Andrew Cowie, Chief Executive of Medvivo. He kindly pointed that with the acquisition of Magna Careline, Medvivo’s headcount has actually increased by some 50, significantly more than the number who are en route to leaving the company. The other observation mentioned in the paragraph as supporting our concerns was, apparently, entirely coincidental (and transitory), and the following paragraph, which actually related to the BBC, was so worded that Medvivo (incorrectly) took it to refer to them. We therefore unreservedly apologise, and invite readers to check out the revised article.

Wearables and mHealth: a few observations

The Telegraph reports on the creation of Amazon UK’s wearables store, following on from their US launch that we covered on April 30th. Unlike in the original US launch, locating the store is not that challenging, however it is very much a jumble of products: if you know what you want then you probably don’t need a store to find it; if you don’t, there’s precious little to guide you to find the right product.

One of the wearables they’ll doubtless think carefully before stocking is (more…)

Assisted Vision: sight enhancement for the partially sighted

Dr Stephen Hicks is a Research Fellow in neuroscience and visual prosthetics at the University of Oxford. He and his team are working on a project to develop a pair of glasses to help partially [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Smart-Glasses.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]sighted people “see” what is in front of them.

BBC’s Johny Cassidy spoke to Hicks recently about the Oxford smart specs project for BBC’s In Touch programme. The project uses Augmented Reality (AR) to make objects in the field of vision sharper for partially sighted people. Hicks says the object is to “try to make a pair of glasses which look relatively normal to people in the environment and still provides a computer based object enhancement and object detection that would be able to be seen by people with very, very limited sight”.

The glasses use two cameras, a gyroscope, a compass and a GPS unit. The “lenses” are made of transparent OLED displays enabling the wearer to see through with any available sight and also allowing others to see the user’s eyes.

“The next step in terms of commercial development is to reduce the size of the glasses and the processing unit into something acceptable to people in day to day life”, says Hicks. The “take-home” versions are targeted to be built in autumn this year.

How much is it likely to cost? A stated goal of the project is to keep the costs down so that the maximum number of people as possible will have access to these glasses. So where possible off-the-shelf components are being used. Hicks says that a pair of glasses for less than £300 is possible compared to just under US$10,000 for the only other one that Johny Cassidy had been able to find. Google Glass, Epson Moverio and similar glasses are, of course, not functionally comparable.

QS’ing, Google Glass and other wearable tech on BBC’s Newsnight (UK)

Here’s one for UK-residents only owing to tech restrictions – unless other readers know how to access it via a UK proxy server – it’s an item on the BBC’s Newsnight programme yesterday (available via the BBC iPlayer for six more days) and it covers various forms of wearable technology. The 15 minute slot beginning at 34 minutes includes a report to demonstrate forms of the technology and a discussion about the associated ethics. The staggering conclusion is that it is awesome technology but we should worry about how the companies that collect data from it will use the information. Newsnight 3 June 2013. Heads up thanks to Mike Clark.

Are the benefits of telehealth a myth? (BBC item, UK)

BBC News (business section) has just published a classically balanced look at telehealth in the UK, with a passing mention of the O2 Help at Hand launch. It’s a pity the article does not have a commenting system as the conclusion may be debatable. Are the benefits of telehealth a myth? Heads-up thanks to John Guyatt via LinkedIn.

On a positive telehealth note, the Public Service website has published a brief item based on recent experience in Leicester, although the title sounds rather backwards! Cold weather keeps telehealth patients out of hospital.