Utilising technology to intervene early in multiple long-term conditions


Health Foundry Summit

As you are by now aware, the focus of our Second Annual Health Summit was Multiple Long-Term Conditions (LTCs). These are a pressing issue in the NHS with 50% of all GP appointments, 64% of all outpatient appointments and over 70% of inpatient bed days attributable to LTC’s. 

In our third session, we looked deeper into innovations for early intervention.

Early Intervention

Victoria Betton, Programme Director, mHabitat introduced the session. Victoria's team are working to create a Health Foundry equivalent space in Leeds. Their work focuses on helping the public sector to adopt tech for good and encouraging co-design with users. 

She kicked off the session by highlighting new research showing the importance of early intervention. She cited a recent study that suggests that by identifying a Type 2 Diabetes patient within the first three years of onset, and providing a short course of intensive lifestyle interventions and drugs, the patient's diabetes can be reversed. The potential to reverse a LTC like diabetes has a profound impact on a patient's quality of life, as well as a reducing the likelihood of amputations and condition-related hospitalisations which are heavy cost burdens on the system.

She then invited innovators in this space onto the stage to discuss how they are facilitating early intervention.


Kicking off with Tony Bowden, CEO, Helicon Healthhe explained that their SBRI backed technology is focused on identifying patients who are at risk of stroke, by focusing on early indicators such as patients with atrial fibrillation and hypertension. As a spin-out from UCL originally focused on open standards to electronic health records, they are able to provide GPs with tools to enable them to identify these patients early and coach GPs to help their patients with self-care programmes.

Shamus Husheer, CEO, Heartfelt Technologies, opened his session with a reference to Natalie Banner's presentation on needing to engage patients about their data. Heartfelt's technology (3D cameras in patients' homes) is an early intervention strategy as it helps to identify oedema in patients with heart failure - an early signal of hospitalisation in these patients. The cameras analyse the ankle width of a patient as they get into and out of bed. If there is an increase this triggers a response to the care team to provide a low-cost medication. Reducing the risk of hospitalisation provides a dual benefit for the healthcare system and the patient and their family.

Luca Schnettler, Founder, Healthy Health, is tackling early intervention from the health data captured within your smartphone. Using this data they are able to provide insurance companies and healthcare organisations with risk information, while giving patients access to information and plans to help with prevention and management of risk factors associated with LTCs. 

The session finished with a keynote from Dr Ben Maruthappu, CEO of Cera and former NHS Innovation Accelerator co-founder;  who shared his story as a clinician of treating patients in A&E who arrived with urinary tract infections. The patients would be weak and delirious, and Ben was frustrated that the patients had got to A&E in the first place. Could this not have been diagnosed earlier? With £10 billion a year spent on diabetes alone, acting earlier makes sense not just from cost savings perspective but also in avoiding serious complications like blindness.

"There needs to be a focus on the Place, Technology and People", Ben Maruthappu, Cera

He explained that historically, innovation was focused in hospitals but he made a case for acting earlier with a focus on intervening in the home. In addition, with healthcare on the brink of a digital transformation as seen in industries like transportation and hotels with the rise of Uber, and Airbnb, the ways in which data can now be captured on smartphones to devices it easier to track people who might deteriorate, so why aren't things better, he argued.

The biggest challenge he sees is in the adoption and utilisation of technology. The focus of many apps is people who have smart phones but these "worried well" are not the people who are utilising hospital services the most - the people where the largest return on investment can be made.

How do you reconcile these challenges? Ben believes that Cera's home care business is part of the solution. The startup is focused on bringing technology to the people surrounding the person who needs to be cared for. Carers can use smart phones, they can do urine tests, they can cross digital divides that the patient may not be able to. Empowering carers with technology and using artifical intelligence to track people who might be deteriorating, will enable them to intervene earlier and hopefully stop someone having an unplanned A&E visit.

This wrapped a bow around the session; with a range of products; looking either more broadly at early interventions associated with general health risks either as tracked in your smartphone, with Healthy Health or Helicon Health identifying people at risk from population data then providing self-care support. Or products that intervene early to prevent potential hospitalisation with Heartfelt Technologies specifically monitoring of oedema to reduce hospitalisations associated with heart failure patients and Cera's platform augmenting the at-home care experience for patients.

Links to other articles in the series of posts about the Health Summit are provided here: