As the pressure mounts within the NHS to deliver better and more efficient care against a backdrop of spending cuts, the need to be truly innovative continues to grow. The service’s dedicated programme, NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) actively encourages and supports the adoption of innovations with proven impact. With a variety of categories from diagnostics to mental health, driving new and more efficient ways to move towards a healthier population is of the utmost importance.
With that in mind, in this post we’re going to look at 3 fantastic examples of innovation in healthcare, and what we can learn from them to continue to develop and inspire the next wave of innovation.
Virti is a truly innovative digital tool, developed by trained trauma and orthopaedic surgeon Alex Young, which provides support and training to healthcare professionals and patients at scale. Using the latest in virtual reality technology, it’s currently being used in a number of trusts to deliver immersive training in a range of medical fields. One area where it’s making a big impact is in mental health. Using state-of-the-art simulation training, it can reduce anxiety and improve performance for students and qualified health professionals. For patients, it enables scalable delivery of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) to those suffering with phobias and anxiety. Scaling in-person coaching or counselling to reduce stress and anxiety in both patients and professional is not cost-effective – using virtual reality, this vital support can be provided at scale much more easily. The platform has driven a 35% increase in engagement in training/therapy, as well as a 77% increase in the confidence of students and healthcare professionals in their training.
What we can learn from it:
Next-generation technology like virtual and mixed reality is at the forefront of driving medical innovation. As this technology becomes more sophisticated and more available at scale, it’s vital for healthcare professionals and the industry as a whole to keep thinking about how it can be used to deliver better outcomes for both professionals and patients. As an immersive medium, it’s a safe way of exposing individuals to “real-life” situations which they can simulate to familiarise themselves with the experience.
CATCH – The Common Approach to Children’s Health
CATCH is a free NHS health app providing parents of children from pregnancy up to age 5 with highly accessible, easy-to-understand healthcare information. It was developed to address and combat the “inappropriate” use of NHS services where self-care would be more appropriate. Helping to address the anxieties parents often feel when their child is ill, the app offers guidance and reassurance around common childhood illnesses, as well as relevant health news and what to do in the event of a genuine emergency. 47% of users have opted for self-care over an A&E visit, and 64% of users opted for self-care over a GP visit.
What we can learn from it:
Healthcare professionals and leaders know the problems behind needless GP and A&E visits. In 2017/18, A&E visits cost the NHS £3.2bn – which has been steadily increasing since 2013/14, with costs now being 39% higher. It’s vital that the healthcare sector continues to take steps to be more transparent with patients about the costs associated with needless visits, and enabling more self-care options and a more informed population by creating these valuable resources.
Droplet is a memory aid for hydration. Using specialised mugs and tumblers with built-in Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) sensors, it’s designed to aid patients at most risk from dehydration with remembering to stay hydrated. This includes the elderly, dementia patients, those with kidney problems, and stroke victims. It was developed by a product design student after her gran became dehydrated after a routine hip operation, leaving her confused and disorientated, which was misdiagnosed as the early stages of dementia. Flexible to use and clean with detachable electronic bases, they use a variety of spoken messages and flashing lights to remind the person to drink. Healthcare professionals or the patient themselves can set reminders at intervals to suit their needs. As of January 2019, Droplet mugs and tumblers are being used in nine hospitals, and these pilot sites have demonstrated an increase in fluid intakes of over 500ml per day.
What we learn from it:
Dehydration is a serious risk, particularly for the elderly and other vulnerable individuals who may live alone or be admitted into hospital. In 2016, the UK DRIE study found that 20% of residents in the UK long term care were dehydrated. Droplet is another example of next-generation technology being used in a simple yet effective way to solve a real clinical problem. This kind of technology is vital in providing essential self-care prompts which takes the pressure off nursing staff and other healthcare professionals, who may be stretched thin and unable to provide timely in-person prompts.
To learn more about innovation in UK healthcare, register for Healthcare Partnership Network. You’ll get the opportunity to learn from those on the frontline of driving innovation in the NHS, and how CIOs and CCIOs are building strategies within their trusts to drive better patient care and support.