Short takes: £150 million for UK social care tech out of £1 billion, bias by design in medical device use investigated, Netsmart buys Remarkable Health, Vinehealth seed rounds £4.1 million

The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) has presented to Parliament a £1 billion, three-year healthcare system reform plan. The white paper, People at the Heart of Care, highlights the following as part of a larger 10 year program:

  • £300 million in housing investment for supported housing
  • new technology and digitization backed by at least £150 million to improve care quality and safety, support independent living and allow staff to provide focused care where it is needed 
  • £500 million for 1.5 million adult social care workforce career training and qualifications 
  • £70 million to assist local authorities and improve the delivery and standard of care
  • up to £25 million to support unpaid carers

Part of the tech upgrading includes 80% of social carers having digitized care records that connect to a shared care record by March 2024. The improvements will be funded through the 1.25% Health and Social Care levy., HealthcareITNews

The UK DHSC is investigating whether the design and use of medical devices such as pulse oximeters could be potentially biased by race. This stems from the disproportionate death rate during COVID-19 of blacks, Asians, and other minorities. The review announced will look at whether AI tools can be biased in their algorithms and whether pulse oximeters may be inaccurate due to darker skin color. HealthcareITNews

Behavioral health continues its hot streak, with specialty EHR provider Netsmart acquiring Remarkable Health, a practice management software developer for behavioral health. Their CT|One electronic health record (EHR) and Bells, the first virtual clinical documentation solution created for behavioral health and human services organizations, will be integrated into Netsmart’s EHRs. Acquisition cost and management transitions were not disclosed. Release

UK-based Vinehealth, an oncology support app that also gathers patient-reported outcome (PRO) data for drug development and clinical trials, closed a seed round of $5.5 million (£4.1 million). Expansion plans include an introduction in the US. Funders were led by Talis Capital with participation from previous investors Playfair Capital and Ascension, plus an extensive list of angel investors including KHP MedTech Innovations, a collaboration between King’s College London, King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust. The Vinehealth app has had 15,000 downloads since January 2020. TechCrunch

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