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Academic Health Science Networks (AHSNs) across England work to spread innovation at pace and scale – improving health and generating economic growth. Here, Jonathan Abraham, CEO & Founder of Healum shares his experiences with the network.
This week Healum had the pleasure of joining CitizenUK and Sweatcoin as part of the Health Innovation Network’s showcase. We were demonstrating the vital role that AHSNs, like the Health Innovation Network (HIN), play in driving digital change in healthcare in local health economies to Dr Tim Ferris, Director of Transformation, NHS England and Improvement, Matthew Whitty, Director of Innovation, Research & Life Sciences at NHS England and Professor Gary Ford, Chief Executive of the Oxford AHSN.
The showcase was a chance to explain our work in providing care planning software and patient facing digital services for people with type 2 diabetes to show how essential this is in helping to recover services and address health inequalities in the system. Our work with the HIN, our local Academic and Health Science Network, has provided Healum with the opportunity to serve people with type 2 diabetes in the local community.
Developing and releasing digital products alone is not enough to transform health services in the NHS. Making full use of data, insights and digital remote methods for supporting the delivery of care requires collaboration with patients and NHS staff to listen, iterate, observe service redesign, skilful implementation, and understand the impacts.
Since Healum started trading four years ago, the HIN has been a vital partner in providing us with access and the opportunity to innovate and serve. They helped us to drive the pace of innovation faster and more effectively alongside other clinical academic and SME tech partners.
“The project’s focus, later branded You & Type 2, was about making it easier for people living with type 2 diabetes to get the most from health and social care systems.”
The pathway to transformation and acceleration: Getting started with HIN
We first started working with the HIN four years ago to address an issue in the adoption of the nine diabetes care processes, particularly in South West and South East London. They pulled together a consortium of clinical leads and project managers working on the provision of diabetes care in primary care settings across the 12 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs). This work was crucial to identifying the opportunity to deploy new models of digitally enabled, personalised care and support planning so that more patients from a range of communities could take control of managing their diabetes in a way that was important to them.
It was at this stage that the HIN decided to put together a Research and Development consortium to bid for the NHS Diabetes Test Beds Wave 2 competition. The objective of the competition was to evaluate the effectiveness of innovative technologies in transforming health outcomes and quality of care for patients with type 2 diabetes. The HIN was instrumental in managing that process in which a set of industry and academic partners were chosen. Healum were selected alongside Citizen UK, Oviva and NHS Year of Care to work collaboratively on the bid, which we subsequently won. Without HIN’s involvement, this consortium across south London would not have happened.
Implementation and rollout of personalised care planning
The project’s focus, later branded You & Type 2, was about making it easier for people living with type 2 diabetes to get the most from health and social care system. The HIN helped to set up a dialogue with patients from multiple communities, with input from healthcare professionals from across primary care – organising focus groups and events for clinicians to help align innovation needs with academic and technology capability.
Co-Creation sessions helped to map care and support pathways, identifying opportunities to support patients to make choices when managing their care, and to assist the healthcare professionals to implement the Year of Care approach. The approach was geared around helping people to understand their own health information and what mattered to them as captured in the nine diabetes care processes, and suggest their best options for care and support.
Healum was given the important role of providing the care and support planning software to enable primary care healthcare professionals, such as practice nurses, HCAs, GPs and link workers to create digital plans of care and support. We did this by capturing patients’ objectives and goals with daily and weekly actions, and providing them with personalised resources – all of which could be accessed through a mobile app designed to Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC) standards.
Our technology was developed to improve the health outcomes and quality of life of people living with type 2 diabetes to make personal healthy choices through having access to the care plan when it matters.
The team at HIN have deep connections with stakeholders across GP practices in South London, so when it came to figuring out how to organise the set of resources in our software and connected apps, it was only natural that we turned to them. They were able to quickly assemble the right clinical teams to look through the articles, videos, exercises, recipes and local services to ensure that the software was set up to provide the right resource for the right patient at the right time. The sessions they organised with clinicians and patients guided us on how the content for ethnically diverse communities in South London and they advised how we could make the content more personal by helping to pull together community assets and educational resources for those communities.
“Our biggest learning about working with an AHSN was just how crucial they are in helping a small company like us to drive the adoption, usage and understanding of our innovation.”
Rollout and implementation
Our biggest learning about working with an AHSN was just how crucial they are in helping a small company like us to drive the adoption, usage and understanding of our innovation. The HIN was responsible for training over 30 GP practices on the Year of Care processes for care planning and the use of our technology as part of it. Not only did it work tirelessly to train the teams at practices, but HIN colleagues also helped to communicate key logistics around technical implementation and service evaluation. This has set the whole project team up to measure the long-term impacts of these innovations on outcomes, delivery, quality and patient experience.
HIN’s team also supported us in the project when care planning services were paused during the pandemic in a way that we would have been unable to do. They helped the whole project team to find ways that we could use our technology to support remote care and alleviate some of the worst effects on people with type 2 diabetes from communities that were hardest hit by the effects of Covid-19.
“We have a lot to thank HIN for – it has been one of the most transformational organisations in our company’s journey.”
Understanding the impact
One year on and over 1,000 plans of care and support have been created, with over 700 app downloads with 30% of people setting goals and looking at resources on the app. The personalised videos from Citizen, which were integrated with EMIS test results and delivered through Healum, have had over 70% completion rates. Stay tuned to see the final results on health outcomes from the service evaluation to be published in 2022!
Navigating the health and care system is complex and implementing new ways of working and technology products in the NHS can be a bit of a mine field when you first start out. Our advice to any other digital health company that wants to have the opportunity to serve people in its local population, is to build relationships with their AHSN and to use the opportunities that they provide to listen, learn, understand, develop and iterate.
We have a lot to thank HIN for – it has been one of the most transformational organisations in our company’s journey. Thanks to their efforts in the You & Type 2 project we are now working with South West London Health and Social Care Partnership for the next three years. Huge thanks go to people working at the HIN including Dr Neel Basudev, the clinical lead for diabetes at HIN, to Nina Pearson, Project Manager Diabetes for the most sterling work in project delivery and to Oliver Brady, Programme Director, Diabetes and Mental Health for his leadership of this project from its inception to its present day. Not to forget the incredible leadership of Chris Gumble at South West London Health and Social Care Partnership who has been driving this project every step of the way.