NHS to collaborate with Verily, IBM, Philips in trials to improve patient care

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens announced Friday the launch of the first wave of NHS Innovation ‘Test Beds,' which are collaborations between the NHS and companies, including Verily, IBM and Philips, aiming to "harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and the health service."

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Stevens said that "over the next decade major health gains won’t just come from a few "miracle cures,' but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications and AI computing." Stevens added "our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to…test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service."

According to the plan, healthcare staff in seven areas will evaluate the use of interconnected devices, including wearable monitors and data analysis, to help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home. "Successful innovations will then be available for other parts of the country to adopt and adapt to the particular needs of their local populations," the NHS said. The initial Test Beds include five in health and care and two Test Beds based on the Internet of Things (IoT). Each Test Bed will use a different combination of innovations to address clinical challenges, such as "supporting people with diabetes and other long term conditions to manage their care better; supporting older people to stay independent at home; better support for people at risk of mental health crisis," the NHS added.

Specifically, Orion Health and nine other innovators will partner with the NHS to evaluate technology combinations that can help patients manage their health conditions and remain as independent as possible. Moreover, the NHS will work with Verily, Merck & Co. and other parties to help healthcare professionals better identify and support patients at risk of chronic conditions. Verily CEO Andy Conrad remarked "this partnership between the NHS, MSD and Verily will determine if data analysis technology can help the NHS better prevent, detect and manage disease. Our hope is to help create a more preventative model for managing long term conditions like heart failure and lung disease."

Meanwhile, Philips will be involved in a Test Bed aiming to support the elderly and people with chronic conditions to remain well outside of hospital and avoid unnecessary admissions. Working with IBM and other parties, the NHS said it will set up an integrated intelligence centre to help get people with conditions, such as diabetes, mental health problems, respiratory disease and hypertension "the help they need, when they need it most." A further Test Bed will use predictive analytics technology to better identify patients with mental health at risk of crisis.

Additionally, one of the IoT Test Beds will use mobile health self-management tools, such as wearable sensors and supporting software with the latest developments in connecting monitoring devices, to enable people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to self-manage their condition. The second IoT Test Bed will aim to help people with dementia live in their own homes for longer. Individuals and their carers will be provided with sensors, wearables, monitors and other devices, which will combine into an ‘Internet of Things’ to monitor their health at home.

The NHS said it "is envisaged that successful Test Bed partners will deliver wider financial benefits to the NHS and the UK economy as they are rolled out in other areas at home and abroad."

In recommendations presented recently to the UK's National Information Board, Martha Lane Fox proposed plans to ensure that everyone using the NHS can access free Wi-Fi. Shortly afterwards, the Welsh government's indicated that, under its digital health and care strategy, NHS patients will be able to consult with their GP using a smartphone and also monitor their health conditions via mobile apps.

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