HealthTech companies come to the rescue as government pledges £5bn to fight coronavirus

As new Chancellor delivers his spring Budget, pledging extra cash for public services, technology suppliers offer their software free of charge to NHS trusts to help relieve pressure from coronavirus outbreak

HealthTech firms including Orion Health are making their technology available to NHS trusts to help cope with the pressure on services from the coronavirus outbreak

The Government has committed to giving the NHS whatever it needs to deal with the impact of coronavirus ‘whether it’s millions of pounds or billions of pounds’.

In his spring Budget speech, the new Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, said an emergency response fund would help the NHS treat patients and maintain staffing levels.

The cash will also help local authorities to support social care and wider public health services in order to prepare for more confirmed cases of the killer bug.

The spread and outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK highlights a need for alternative ways in which patients and clinicians communicate and provide consultations

Initially set at £5billion; the size of the fund will be reviewed as the impact of coronavirus develops.

And, alongside this fund, the increased costs and financial disruption to smaller businesses from the effects of coronavirus will be smoothed by measures such as refunding Statutory Sick Pay, business interruption loans, and extending discounts and relief for business rates.

Commenting on the announcement, Siva Anandaciva, chief analyst in the policy team at the King’s Fund health think tank, said: “For the health and care service, this sends a clear message that the funding cavalry is on the way.

Siva Anandaciva

“But much more detail will be needed in the coming weeks over how organisations can access this funding; what ‘counts’ as coronavirus-related spending; what impact this funding will have on an already-complex NHS financial regime that is based on annual income and expenditure targets; and – most importantly – what practical support the funding can deliver to staff and patients.

“One NHS hospital chief executive I spoke to this week said, ‘Even if I had more money for coronavirus, it will be difficult to find more intensivists, nurses, or hospital beds – the best thing I could do is use the money to support social care in my local area.”

But, while NHS and social care organisations battle on the frontline, behind the scenes healthcare technology firms are also doing their bit to mitigate the impact of COVID-19.

Last week we revealed how a number of health-tech firms had made their software available to NHS trusts free of charge in order to help them gather data, stream calls, and to enable remote consultations between patients and clinical staff.

This shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to help manage an outbreak. Instead there is a long-term need to rethink how we deliver healthcare overall with the current resources we have and to implement technology that works with the complexities of the NHS

And many more have followed suit in the past seven days.

Speaking to BBH, Alan Lowe, chief executive and co-founder of Visionable, said: “The NHS is already under strain, with resources stretched and patients experiencing long waits in emergency departments.

“And the spread and outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK highlights a need for alternative ways in which patients and clinicians communicate and provide consultations.

“Technologies such as remote conferencing and video collaboration can bring many benefits in helping facilitate patient consultations more efficiently, as well as helping to contain the virus and ensuring emergency departments have the resources to help the most vulnerable.”

But, he warns: “This shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to help manage an outbreak. Instead there is a long-term need to rethink how we deliver healthcare overall with the current resources we have and to implement technology that works with the complexities of the NHS, at the same time as supporting clinicians to deliver the best care to patients – wherever and whenever they need it.”

This virus requires every organisation that can make a difference to do so right now and to band together to solve this problem with all available technology resources and the smartest minds on the planet collaborating seamlessly

This week cloud file storage specialist, Qumulo, announced it was offering its cloud-native file software for free to public and private sector medical and healthcare research organisations that are working to minimise the spread and impact of the virus.

Using these file and data services organisations can capture, process, analyse and share data with researchers distributed across geographies.

The software works seamlessly with the applications medical and healthcare researchers have been using for decades, as well as artificial intelligence and analytics services more recently developed in the cloud.

“Using Qumulo’s software to manage and understand petabytes of data in real-time, medical and research organisations around the world can work together and leverage the power of the cloud and hybrid environments to fight COVID-19,” said Bill Richter, president and chief executive of Qumulo.

“This virus requires every organisation that can make a difference to do so right now and to band together to solve this problem with all available technology resources and the smartest minds on the planet collaborating seamlessly.”

And LogMeln is making its ‘Emergency Remote Work Kits’ – video conferencing, webinars and virtual events, remote IT support/management, and remote device access available free to government, educational, healthcare and not-for-profit organisations to ensure they can stay connected when it matters most.

A spokesman said: “Regrettably, the spread of coronavirus continues to cause individuals and companies around the world to question how best to conduct their business during this outbreak. These factors have also put inevitable strain on critical service providers like hospitals as they ready themselves to deal with further outbreaks and disruptions.

“This, in turn, is accelerating the pace at which many organisations are being pushed to embrace remote work, despite the fact that many of these organisations are not yet equipped to get the most productivity out of their remote workforce.

“At LogMeIn, we’ve already seen many of these trends play out in Asia, where usage of some of our collaboration products has more than doubled in recent weeks, and we’re starting to see significant spikes in traffic in other regions of the world as Coronavirus awareness and concerns grow.

Over time Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be increasingly used to allow providers to identify patients at risk of deterioration and optimise their care. This will allow resources to be allocated to those most in need

“So, starting immediately, we will be offering our critical frontline service providers with free, organisation-wide use of many LogMeIn products for three months through the availability of Emergency Remote Work Kits.

“These kits will include solutions for meetings and video conferencing, webinars and virtual events, IT support and management of remote employee devices and apps, as well as remote access to devices in multiple locations.”

Orion Health is also seeing a surge in interest for its remote patient monitoring solutions.

And the company is making available its comprehensive screening and remote monitoring software to help manage the care of patients.

This supports remote patient assessment and care co-ordination by clinicians through configuration of existing and well-established technology.

Core functionality includes the ability to remotely monitor and engage patients in their homes, enabling communication between quarantined and self-isolating patients and their local healthcare service, as well as maintaining visibility of those recently discharged.

Orion Health chief executive, Ian McCrae, said: “The intention is to alleviate spikes in demand on health systems, reducing the risk of further spread of the virus and flattening the epidemiological curve.”

He added: “Over time Artificial Intelligence (AI) will be increasingly used to allow providers to identify patients at risk of deterioration and optimise their care. This will allow resources to be allocated to those most in need.”

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