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

Calling all digital health entrepreneurs: DHACA Day on 18th March is for you!

If you’re struggling with the many challenges of how to grow your digital health business fast, DHACA, sponsored by the AHSN Network, is at hand to help. Specifically on 18th March we have assembled an outstanding group of speakers to help you get to know NHSX and its priorities, to build AI into your product or service, to position yourself to benefit most from the current emphasis on longevity, to understand how the cabinet office can help, how data privacy legislation may change post Brexit, what Babylon is doing, how the AHSNs can help and much, much more. You only have to pay for lunch! You will also get to hear how you can access a wide range of in depth business services free, due to the generosity of our sponsors.

The event is being held courtesy of Baker Botts in their offices very close to Bank Tube station in London. 

Please click here to see more detail and to book.

(Disclosure: this Editor is also CEO of DHACA)

A change of vetting for the NHS Apps Library by spring 2020

NHSX, the multi-department team from NHS England, the Department of Health and Social Care, and NHS Improvement established earlier this year [TTA 18 Apr], announced last week a new approach to the accreditation of digital health apps for the NHS Apps Library. The plan is to transition from the present direct assessment into accrediting independent assessors using an open standard. NHSX announced that they will undertake this change in a two-step process:

  • Create a digital health technology standard based on those existing for industry and health, combining present questions with other data and interoperability standards
  • Develop a clearer review, assessment and evaluation approach for digital health tools, including a list of external assessors who will be in turn accredited to apply the new standard

This approach to the perennial problem of app vetting is scheduled to be completed by spring of 2020, not too far away.

In related developments:

  • NHSX will also work with the Accelerated Access Collaborative on a pipeline to deliver digital products through to priority areas
  • NHSX’s departing (as of October end) director of digital development Dr. Sam Shah has been ranked fourth in the #IB100, a list of the top 100 most influential black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) leaders in the tech sector. HealthcareITNews Europe/UK

UKAuthority.com  Hat tip to Alistair Appleby of Wokingham Borough Council 

Next DHACA Day 9th July, London – seeking new members (psst–it’s free)

DHACA, the Digital Health and Care Alliance, with some 850 members currently, is having a new membership drive among SMEs working in the UK’s digital health & care space, following the kind offering of new sponsorship by Kent Surrey and Sussex AHSN and UCL Partners. 

The organisation’s objective is to help members develop their innovative products and services commercially, to achieve successful sales to the NHS. DHACA works right across the UK.

If you aren’t a member, you can sign up here to ensure you are kept aware of important news and of DHACA events. Membership is entirely free and members’ details will of course never be passed on to any other organisation.

Whether or not you are currently a member, booking is now open for the next DHACA Day. This event is primarily aimed at informing members working in the digital health & care sector of the major recent changes they need to be aware of, and how best to navigate them to make greater sales to the NHS and other health & care organisations. There is a small charge of £30+VAT to provide lunch, otherwise all other costs will kindly be covered by the event Sponsors, Baker Botts, in whose premises at 41 Lothbury (the opposite side of the Bank of England to the Bank Tube) it will be held.

The draft agenda includes talks by Luke Pratsides, Clinical Lead, Digital Development, NHS England about NHSX, Sam Shah, Director of Digital Development at NHS England and James Maguire, Clinical Advisor in Digital Innovation & AI at NHSX on NHS England’s digital development strategy, Mark Salmon, Programme Director, NICE on their HealthTech Connect and Evidence Standards, Neil Foster, Partner, Baker Botts on Finance for digital health start-ups, Neil Coulson, Partner, Baker Botts, on IP protection and the GDPR, Rob Berry, Commercial Director, UCL Partners on how the AHSNs can help SMEs and much more. Neil McGuire, Clinical Director of Devices, MHRA, has also been invited to update attendees on MDR implementation – a most important topic.

DHACA is keen to get members’ views on how they’d like it to be organised and governed in order to deliver what members want, so there will be time in the middle of the day for this too.

Should be a great day!

(Disclosure: this Editor is also DHACA CEO) 

 

Babylon Health’s expansion plans in Asia-Pacific, Africa spotlighted

Mobihealthnews’ interview with Ali Parsa of Babylon Health illuminates what hasn’t been obvious about the company’s global plans, in our recent focus on their dealings with the NHS. For its basic smartphone app (video consults, appointments, medical records), Babylon last year announced a partnership with one of Asia’s largest health insurers, Prudential [TTA 18 Sept 18], licensing Babylon’s software for its own health apps across 12 countries in Asia for an estimated $100 million over several years. Babylon has also been active in Rwanda and now reaches, according to their information, nearly 30 percent of the population. There’s also a nod to developments with the NHS.

Parsing the highlights in Dr. Parsa’s rather wordy quest towards less ‘sick care’, more ‘prevention over cure’, and making healthcare affordable and accessible to everyone ’round the clock:

  • Asia-Pacific: Working with Tencent, Samsung and Prudential Asia through licensing software is a key component of their business. By adding more users, they refine and add more quality to their services. (Presumably they have more restrictions on the data they send to Tencent than what they obtain in China.)
  • Africa: How do you offer health apps in an economically poor country where only 5 percent of the population has a smartphone? Have an app that works for the 75 percent who have a feature phone. Babyl Rwanda has 2 million users–30 percent of Rwanda’s population–and completes 2,000 consultations a day. Babyl also works with over 450 health clinics and pharmacies. The service may also be expanded across East Africa, and may serve as a model for similar countries in other regions.
  • UK and NHSX: About the new NHS-formed joint organization for digital services, tech, and clinical care, Dr. Parsa believes it is ‘fantastic’ and that “it is trying to bring the benefits of modern technology to every patient and clinician, and aims to combine the best talent from government, the NHS and industry. Its aim, just like ours, is to create the most advanced health and care service in the world, to free up staff time and empower patients.” (Editor’s note:  NHSX will bring together the Department of Health and Social Care, NHS England and NHS Improvement, overseeing NHS Digital. More in Digital Health, Computer Weekly.)