3 examples of disruptive innovation in healthcare

To be truly innovative often means to be disruptive. The meaning of disruption has shifted from negative connotations to positive ones. Being disruptive is to be visionary – to not be afraid to break conventions, to do something no one has done before, and to achieve something no one has achieved before. 

COVID-19, and the challenges that come with it, must be met with positive disruption – to meet completely these new challenges with completely new solutions. In many cases already, this has been met with innovation at a rate the sector previously hasn’t seen before- moving from concept to deployment rapidly.

With that in mind, here are 3 examples of disruptive innovation in healthcare and healthcare delivery, and how we can learn from them to support the new normal.


Automation for COVID-19 antibody testing

Automation has been disrupting healthcare for a while, but it’s particularly uplifting, interesting and apt to talk about automation which is helping NHS organisations tackle the COVID-19 crisis. 

At East Suffolk and North Essex NHS Foundation Trust, Darren Atkins and his team have been rapidly developing, testing and launching groundbreaking bots and robotic process automations (RPAs) that aid staff with vital processes around COVID-19.  The team have been the worthy recipients of the Health Tech Leaders 2020 award for their automation work. Darren has reported that bots saved the Trust 10,522 hours in May 2020 compared to July 2018 when they saved just 33.5 hours.

The most notable of their current work is the incredibly quick turnaround of bots to manage employee antibody testing for COVID-19. Launched on the 29th May, the bot completely automates the process of an employee requesting and having a test for COVID-19 antibodies. Via three stages – submitting the request, patient input, and sending results, it makes the whole process, which is a very important one, light-touch for the staff, so they can focus on continuing to deliver great healthcare. Not only have they developed this innovative solution, they are making the processes available to other healthcare organisations via the NHS Digital Exchange for free. You can find you more about this solution here


Home monitoring applications

Patient self-care and self-assessment have been a strong focus area of healthcare innovation since smartphones and mobile apps became widely accessible. At a time where it’s been vital to carefully assess whether patients need to and should be hospitalised, it’s been even more important to be able to focus on delivering care and advice at home where possible, in order to preserve medical resources for those most in need. 

The AP-HP Hospitals in Paris, France, in partnership with Inria and funded by the EIT Health Rapid Response Innovation Project initiative, have developed an app called Covidom – an app for home management of patients with mild to moderate COVID symptoms. Patients who report symptoms are asked to fill in a standardised set of questions about their symptoms for a period of 30 days. This data is analysed by algorithms, and if a problem or unusual pattern is detected, a series of alerts are generated on a scale from mild to top-priority, all of which are monitored by a single regional control centre. The patient can then be directed to simply continue self care at home, to be hospitalised if necessary, or the control centre can even immediately dispatch an ambulance if necessary. The app was deployed in the Bichat and Pitié-Salpêtrière hospitals in Paris in March, and already has 50,000 patients on the system. 


Another hot topic in healthcare innovation is collecting patient data via the Internet of Things (IOT), and wearables. 

The Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center has employed the use of Vivalnk continuous temperature sensors to monitor COVID-19 patients and  reduce the risk of caregiver infection. The low energy Bluetooth sensors connect to a multi-patient management system, and provide temperature data in real-time, meaning medical staff can respond rapidly and appropriately to any changes in temperature. In addition to helping alleviate resourcing pressures, patient disruption, emission and errors, it also creates a powerful set of data which can be analysed both within the centre to predict trends, and also more widely used to determine the trajectory of the virus and its symptoms in infected patients. 

Many of these innovations were already seen as the future of healthcare – but the current circumstances, the rate at which they have to be deployed, and in many cases, the success of the innovations, has proven that they are not a pipedream, and can have tangible benefits during a global health crisis and beyond. 

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