Collaborate to innovate
We know that delivering digital health solutions to support patients and improve outcomes is a focus of many NHS organisations across the country. The management and delivery of these projects, however, can often prove challenging.
It was with this in mind that we launched the Digital Health Partnership Award.
As the name suggests, the award focuses on how a partnership approach to the development and delivery of digital projects can help unblock the barriers in implementing technology solutions within the NHS. To be eligible for funding through the award, project owners need to identify a technology partner who adds value beyond that of a traditional supplier relationship. They also need to have a patient activation partner to support uptake and reach, as well as an evaluation partner to ensure that this is considered and the project blueprint can be shared across the wider NHS.
The award aims to prove that this collaborative model of delivery can work in the NHS now and in the future.
We launched the first cohort of award winners in September 2021 and have just announced the latest batch of successful projects to receive funding.
In total we received over 240 bids. We were really encouraged by the sheer volume of applications, showcasing the multiple ways NHS colleagues are looking to work with partners to scale the use of technology across England to support patients. We were particularly interested in proposals where NHS organisations looked beyond traditional customer/supplier relationships and geographical boundaries, and thought differently about how they could best leverage the expertise and experience of each partner to deliver a sustainable solution that also complies with the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria for health and social care (DTAC). Crucially, it was also a requirement for all project proposals to show how they were working with, and listening to, patients, while also demonstrating digital inclusion.
Six months on from the launch of the awards we have supported 40 projects, worth over £8 million across the length and breadth of the country. Early examples are emerging which demonstrate how this model of partnership working is helping to bring a greater depth of skills and understanding to the projects, leading to closer working relationships where we are all able to learn and benefit.
The projects we have supported draw from a wide and diverse range of technologies. In some cases, using existing technologies such as web platforms and patient facing apps, whereas others are implementing cutting edge solutions for wearables and extended reality (XR).
Here are a few examples:
- Great Ormond Street Hospital has partnered with the Epilepsy Foundation, vCreate and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde to repurpose an existing technology product originally implemented for remote monitoring of Covid patients and extend its use to support children with epilepsy. The solution will enable patients and carers as well as their doctors to safely share seizure videos for remote clinical interpretation and management advice.
- The Little Hearts at Home programme at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital Foundation Trust is working with Objectivity Ltd on a remote monitoring reading solution to enable newborns and infants with severe congenital heart defects to move to a proactive and preventative model of care. The project aims to increase early interventions and reduce emergency admissions and means babies can be out of the hospital environment and back home with their families.
- A partnership between London Central and West Urgent Care Centre, Social Minds, Nexer, Heco Analytics and UCLPartners is developing a digital solution called NeUro. The goal is to improve access to urinary tract infection (UTI) management options for patients with Parkinson’s, dementia and Multiple Sclerosis through integration with the 111 service. The project aims to increase self-management and reduce the need for patients and carers to attend emergency services out of hours.
- East London Foundation Trust is working in conjunction with Barnardos to develop an app-based self-management and parental support resource for children and young people with eating disorders. The solution will focus on early intervention, reducing the duration of an untreated eating disorder as well as the impact on the young person and their family.
So where do we go from here? Early insights show that the award is already starting to have a positive impact. The knowledge we gain through the Partnership Award project will help us to identify technologies that may be ready to scale across a wider area. We also plan to publish findings and share learnings on the partnership approach to implementing tech.