By investing in new ideas and nurturing innovators, we are helping to bring the advantages of digital health to our communities
From apps that promote healthy habits to medical tests a click away: digital technology has the potential to revolutionise healthcare.
There are many benefits to digitally-enabled healthcare. It can give people easier access and more control over their care. It can help professionals with the information they need at their fingertips. And it can make our hospitals and GP practices more efficient.
As a catalyst for health innovation, we are excited about this area of work. We are learning from others in the UK and beyond and have started to support initiatives in Lambeth and Southwark – nurturing innovators and working with clinicians and others to unlock the potential of digital health locally and beyond.
Digital innovation relies heavily on people with good ideas but also strong connections.
Innovators have told us they would like their work supported in new ways. These include having a physical space they could work from, collaborate with others and build links with the NHS. Our digital health incubator, Health Foundry, was born in response to that need. We also supported the appointment of a health partnerships manager to help bridge the gap between local innovators and NHS providers.
Meanwhile, similar initiatives like our Bright Ideas Fund with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, are helping NHS staff to pioneer health ideas, many digital, for improvements in the Trust and beyond.
Over the past few years we have worked with local innovators to turn digital health ideas into reality. We have provided grants, invested in enterprises and brokered fruitful relationships.
We have backed Cydar’s technology for surgeons, online sexual health services SH:24 and SXT.org, sports site OpenPlay and the Baby Buddy app for new parents. Working with Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust, we are helping to create apps for professionals to assess a person's risk of inherited cancers, and for junior doctors to share ideas for improvements with their directors.
In addition, the arrival of a secure digital platform which makes patient records accessible by local hospitals and GPs and our funding for eCommunities – a new website for doctors to get peer support with complex cases – are helping to take big steps towards more effective care.
Bringing sexual health online
One third of people attending sexual health clinics could potentially self-manage their condition. We are supporting SH:24 with funding for 3 years to improve access to sexual health services by offering easy and 24/7 testing for sexually transmitted infections and information. Testing kits are ordered online, the test is carried out at home and posted back and the results are sent confidentially via text message. The service is fully embedded with other NHS sercices and it is working to increase the number of people tested for STIs and free up capacity in clinics.
Digital health can bring great benefits, but it takes time and resources to develop new solutions and change analogue ways of working.
In partnership with the Health Innovation Network, we are speeding up the creation and adoption of new digital health ideas in our area, helping to realise locally the benefits of large initiatives like Digital Health.London and its pan-London accelerator programme.
We always encourage collaboration and believe that bringing together those who can drive digital health is key to speeding up the pace. So we have funded work to encourage the NHS and digital health SMEs to collaborate, and we support Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust and others to be active forces in bringing about change to our local boroughs sooner.