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Smartphones among digital tech transforming London’s NHS

15 June 2017

Digital technologies – from smartphone apps that help people successfully manage their diabetes, avoid “no shows” at hospitals, to tools that save time for nurses and paramedics – are beginning to transform London’s NHS services.

For the first time, NHS providers in London have revealed the extent to which smartphones, the Internet and Bluetooth are improving patient care and look set to save the capital’s NHS millions each year.

Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust expects to save £2.5 million each year by reducing missed appointments through an app called DrDoctor which gives patients much more say in selecting a date and time of their choice, resulting in “no show” rates falling by 40%.

Health chiefs are also using smartphones to tackle a looming health crisis with London boroughs tackling type-2 diabetes.

Programmes run by the North West London Collaboration of Clinical Commissioning Groups, covering eight boroughs, are successfully tackling diabetes through digital technology. OurPath links an app to a fitness wristband and 3G connected weighing scales to provide clients with realtime updates that help tackle type-2 diabetes, and in studies has achieved an average 5.3kg weight loss, while Oviva has seen more than 200 people complete the online programme with an impressive 90 per cent completion rate.

Dr Tom Willis, diabetes clinical lead for the Collaboration, said: “GPs are by nature very busy, naturally sceptical and want evidence.”

The London Ambulance Service, which was praised for its speedy and high quality care to the victims of the recent London Bridge terrorist attacks, is a key adopter having helped adapt the Perfect Ward audit tool specifically for its ambulance stations. The city-wide service has also developed Perfect Kit Prep and cuts out medicines paperwork for faster ambulance care, these are being implemented across over 70 ambulance stations in the capital.

In Chelsea and Westminster another tool links a stoma bag, used to collect faeces and urine for more than 13,000 people who undergo surgery each year nationally, through Bluetooth to users’ smartphones. A discrete device called ostom-i Alert Sensor, developed by a patient innovator, provides alerts when the bag is full so users have more control over their daily life and, importantly, greater dignity.

A new report ‘Digital Leadership in London’s NHS’ reveals that within eight months the 31 start-ups and digital companies backed by an organisation called DigitalHealth.London have achieved strong uptake within the capital.

These companies are mainly London based and have signed 36 new contracts in the past eight months, 50% of which they credit to the support of Digital Health.London’s ‘Accelerator’ programme and the Digital Navigators who have linked them into London’s NHS.

Great Ormond Street Hospital, an international centre of excellence in paediatric healthcare, contributed to the report. Chief executive Dr Peter Steer said “he believes that the hospital will find it hard to continue to carry out cutting edge clinical work without making the most of digital innovations.”

Other NHS organisations involved include King’s College Hospital, Chelsea & Westminster Hospitals and the six South West London CCGs.

Juliet Bauer, Director of Digital Experience, NHS England, said: “I’m a passionate supporter of DigitalHealth.London. At a time when the NHS is under real pressure, the programme has fostered the collaboration and innovation needed in information and technology to help the system work more efficiently and provide patients with the intelligent, personalised, high quality care they deserve.”

Professor Keith McNeil, Chief Clinical Information Officer, Health & Social Care, NHS England said:
“Innovation is not just coming up with great ideas, but following up with implementation and spread.
“It is incumbent on all of us in leadership positions across the NHS to make sure these ground-breaking and transformational ideas are rapidly embedded in our day to day working, improving patient outcomes and experience, and adding to the sustainability of the healthcare we will deliver into the 21st.