HealthTech companies continue to support NHS's efforts to tackle coronavirus

New and existing technologies are being utilised to drive efficiencies and improve pathways during COVID-19 pandemic

Software robots from UiPath are being used at The Mater Hospital to help reduce the administrative burden on infection control staff during the pandemic

Healthcare technology providers are continuing to support the NHS in its efforts to cope with the increased pressure on services caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Software developers have been producing new solutions to help with efficiencies and data capture; with many offering their innovations free to the NHS for the duration of the outbreak.

These include Alcidion, which has created a new tool within its Patientrack early warning software that will help nurses carry out crucial assessments designed to allow hospitals to identify coronavirus patients sooner.

The digital assessment makes it easy for nurses to assess every patient presenting at hospital with a respiratory illness.

Staff will follow a series of questions covering symptoms, the patient’s circumstances, and their physiological measurements, and will enter information directly into Patientrack, the system used to track observations via a computer or mobile device.

Specific questions will be tailored to the hospital’s own coronavirus assessment criteria and can be configured by the hospital to keep up with the evolving situation.

With the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding now, it is crucial that all frontline staff are freed up as much as possible to spend time with patients and deal with this outbreak, rather than being in front of computers

Depending on the hospital’s requirements, the system can then place a flag on a patient’s record or automatically alert appropriate professionals like respiratory doctors and infection control teams if answers indicate signs of coronavirus.

It will also remove the need to record this information on paper, and will make it easier for hospitals to provide more-complete information to NHS England on the number of people screened, the number who test positive, and the number of people who have died.

David Proctor, the implementation consultant at Alcidion who built the initial coronavirus assessment tool, said: “This is very much about supporting early intervention and early treatment.

“Nurses have always used Patientrack to help identify deterioration, and to allow a swift clinical response.

“This new development is designed to help them detect coronavirus early so that hospitals can deliver treatment sooner, move patients to intensive care faster, and get them the care they need more quickly.”

Lynette Ousby, general manager, added: “We are committed to helping our NHS partners tackle coronavirus in any way we can.

“We are working with hospitals that use Patientrack to test and implement the coronavirus assessment tool quickly, which we will be providing free of charge for as long as they need it.

“Discussions are ongoing as to how we can also adapt our wider range of technologies to respond quickly to the needs of frontline staff at this difficult time.”

EQL, developer of the Phio physiotherapy assessment solution has also created a triage tool that signposts users to suitable musculoskeletal care pathways at a time when non-essential face-to-face consultations are being minimised.

NHS Bedfordshire and NHS Greenwich clinical commissioning groups, which collectively cover a total population of over 700,000 patients, have already implemented the software to help manage patients with MSK-related issues such as bad backs and sprains, determining the severity of their condition and recommending next stages without the need for an appointment with a healthcare professional.

Jason Ward, chief executive of EQL, said: “At this time it is imperative to alleviate pressure on primary care and the wider NHS.

This new development is designed to help them detect coronavirus early so that hospitals can deliver treatment sooner, move patients to intensive care faster, and get them the care they need more quickly

“We are committed to radically improving clinical pathways through technology and are thrilled to be working with NHS Bedfordshire and Greenwich through Circle Health, the specialist healthcare provider.

“We hope to see other clinical commissioning groups follow suit in the future.”

EQL is seeing increased uptake of its Phio physiotherapy assessment solution as the COVID-19 outbreak sees a reduction in 'non essential' face-to-face consultations

Accessible 24/7, and available in any language, Phio can complement existing services and is a strong alternative for many telephone-based and remote physiotherapy services.

Meanwhile, a new innovation has been launched at the Mater Hospital in Dublin, which will see software robots from UiPath assigned to the infection prevention and control (IPC) Department to help reduce the administrative strain placed upon it by multi-drug-resistant organisms such as Covid-19.

The project will see the Mater offered free trial robot licenses for the IPC department until the end of the year.

As a result of coronavirus, the Mater expects to receive hundreds of swabs and microbiology tests in the coming months, which the software robots can assist in rapid processing.

The results can then be distributed to healthcare workers rapidly and essential infection prevention and control measures can be put into action.

Jincy Jerry, assistant director of nursing, infection prevention and control at the hospital, said: “Given that IPC nurses spend close to 30% of their day with administrative tasks, for the past few months I have been looking at ways to make software robots part of our daily jobs.

“And, with the COVID-19 pandemic unfolding now, it is crucial that all frontline staff are freed up as much as possible to spend time with patients and deal with this outbreak, rather than being in front of computers.

“Not only will automation help with this, but it will also take the strain off the hospital as it continues to process huge amounts of more-routine patient data in addition to Covid-19 specific information.”

He adds: “As we’ve already seen, alongside the public playing their part in physical distancing, fast diagnosis and appropriate self-isolation are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19.

“We’re confident that the project we’re embarking on will help mitigate the huge strain this outbreak is putting on healthcare organisations – not just at this hospital, but across Ireland.”

And Siilo is offering its support tools free of charge to medical organisations during the pandemic.

As we’ve already seen, alongside the public playing their part in physical distancing, fast diagnosis and appropriate self-isolation are crucial to preventing the spread of COVID-19

Siilo is Europe’s largest messaging network for health and care professionals and, over the past few weeks, downloads of the app have surged and usage has tripled.

This interest is due, largely, to the app’s crisis management functionality, which is being used to ensure urgent communications continue despite the increasing influx of patients presenting with COVID-19.

It is being used to:

  • Create and co-ordinate crisis messaging groups, without the need to exchange personal details
  • Centrally broadcast important and time-sensitive messages to teams, departments, or entire organisations
  • Build peer networks with specialists and department heads to share real-time insights and address capacity problems and resource allocation
  • and to mobilise users en masse by sending out an email a customised link or QR code that a group must use to join their secure groups/conversations

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