Digital Health Innovation and Networking Event: A summary

On 2 February 2016 we held a Digital Health Innovation and Networking event, where expert speakers presented to a packed room full of life sciences and pharmaceutical companies, technology suppliers, MedTech businesses, funders and healthcare providers.

The event looked at how digital solutions, including apps, big data and predictive analytics, are transforming the treatment and prevention of mental health issues. Bleddyn Rees, Osborne Clarke’s Digital Healthcare Consultant, explained the two main objectives for the evening:

  1. To arm all attendees with some basic information about mental health services in the UK to try and blow away the image it has of being a ‘Cinderella Service’ (i.e. the NHS service that has been neglected, ignored and given too little attention and funding)
  2. To give the opportunity and platform to the SLaM presenters to demonstrate how they are driving mental health innovation forward in the NHS.

Matthew Patrick – CEO, South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust (“SLaM”)           

Matthew kicked off the evening with an overview of how the Priory of Bethlem, founded in 1247, within the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust was the oldest mental health institute in the world and from it commonly known terms such as ‘Bedlam‘ have been derived.

One in four people will suffer from a mental health issues every year in the UK – the largest proportion of disease burden in the UK as a stand-alone issue. It is also connected with many physical illnesses, for example nearly 25% of the £8bn spent each year on diabetes care can be attributed to mental health conditions.

The impact that mental health illness has on the UK economy is huge. Each year the collective health and social care costs, human costs (informal and unpaid care) and lost productivity costs due to morbidity and premature death due to mental health illness is around £105bn – roughly the same figure that is spent on the NHS in total each year. To put the mental health illness economy costs in perspective – the equivalent cost to the UK economy for cancer related illness is £16bn. And it is expected that these figures will double in the next 10 years.

Matthew Hotopf – Director, NIHR Biomedical Research Centre at the Maudsley

Matthew describes himself as the ‘driver of innovation in healthcare‘ and sees the move into ‘digital’ as a critical component to the future of healthcare in the UK.

Matthew, a clinician and researcher, highlighted the importance of clinical data to improve healthcare that can be offered by the NHS, however one of the key challenges is collecting that data. There have been high profile programmes to collect data from patient records ( was one such example cited). Matthew has been involved in the innovative CRIS programme where they are taking patient mental health electronic health records and anonymising the data so that it can be used for research. The way in which this data is accessed and can be used by researchers has been transformed by SLaM.

The CRIS programme is just one of many initiatives that SLaM are supporting, both internally and in collaboration with commercial partners, academic partnerships and NHS Trusts.

Stephen Docherty – Chief Information Officer, SLaM

Stephen has approached his role as CIO in the NHS from a gaming background and has brought a lot of the lessons he learnt in that industry to achieve the vision of being recognised as the world’s leading institution in mental health informatics.

SLaMs approach to digital innovation is developing prototypes at pace based on its development environment, which mirrors the patient record database. Access to this ‘walled garden’ of information is closely governed but the results of those projects have demonstrated the possibilities – such as ‘sleep sight’ – a remote monitoring tool of sleep in Schizophrenia patients.

Stephen highlighted that a change in mindset is required for this approach – fast–and agile development is key and to do that he needs to procure third party IT solutions at pace – without lengthy procurement processes.

Kumar Jacob – CEO, Mindwave Ventures

Kumar is a former non-executive director of SLaM and now operates an IT spin-off that collaborated with Stephen on a recent app development project – My Health Locker 2.0 (“MHL“).

Kumar emphasised the importance of usability of digital health innovation across different stakeholders by ensuring clinicians, researchers and patients are all motivated to use the service. Kumar further emphasised the importance of pace in the development of digital health innovation – they developed the MHL 2.0 app from its first iteration in just 10 weeks.

The development of virtual reality technology also has something to offer the mental health innovators. Kumar showcased ‘HealthVR’, a solution that is helping to deliver exposure tasks as part of cognitive behaviour therapy, but in an environment entirely controlled by the clinician, where they can also measure the reactions of a patient. Attendees were able to use a demo of Health VR after the presentations.

Brian O’Connor – Director, European Connected Health Alliance (“ECHA”)

Brian operates a ‘coalition of the willing’ through the ECHA, bringing together eco-systems across Europe to identify needs and facilitate stakeholders finding a solution.

He praised the work of the NHS, and the huge innovations that can be found there, while encouraging the attendees to become ‘treasure hunters’ to find those innovative solutions within the NHS that have scope of further commercialisation. Many companies that you may not consider, Shell for example, have taken huge strides in digital healthcare (for the management of staff in remote locations) and the scope for commercialisation within these businesses is sizeable.

Brian’s parting thoughts struck a chord – who goes into the bank anymore? Who goes into a travel agent? It has become part of our culture that these are now online services and there is public trust that supports this. Healthcare will also be one of those services in the future.

Jon Fell – Partner and Head of Telecoms, Osborne Clarke LLP

Jon finishing off the evening with a discussion of the digital health findings of the research conducted by Osborne Clarke and Retail Week culminating in the ‘Connected Consumer: a life lived online’ report.

Age is a clear definer in who is willing to use a health or fitness tracker with nearly three quarters of the respondents being under 35 and a clear swing towards male users, perhaps unsurprisingly.

A key message from Jon was that consumers are addicted to their smartphones – they are often the first and last thing they look at in the day. Jon referred to the papers published by Dr. Joseph Kvedar and the three tactics that digital healthcare could use: subliminal messaging, unpredictable rewards and sentinel. Jon pointed out that this was replicated in the discussions we have been having with retailers and others about engaging with their customer.

The next Digital Health Innovation and Networking evening will be held on 21 June 2016. Register an interest here.

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