This month’s industry round-up features news Babylon has been shortlisted for a $100m MacArthur Foundation grant and Middlesex University has purchased VR headsets to help student nurses spot the signs of sepsis.

Babylon shortlisted for $100m MacArthur Foundation grant

Babylon has been shortlisted for a $100m (£770,000) grant as part of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change competition.

Bablyon partnered with Amref Health Africa, with support from the World Bank and Smart Africa, and proposed an ambitious partnership to accelerate universal health coverage in Africa through digital primary healthcare.

The project seeks to make healthcare accessible to anyone with a smart or basic mobile phone, by localising Babylon’s existing technology and services, community engagement, and harnessing strategic partnerships with governments, health facilities and the private sector.

Together the team will bring sustainable and scalable digital health services to 50 million people across five African countries, and pave the way for further digital health adoption across the continent.

Directors will select the finalists in spring 2020.

Shivon Byamukama, the MD of Babyl Rwanda said: “Use of technology is the only way to solve the poor doctor to patient ratio in Africa. We introduced babyls service in Rwanda in 2016 and today, we conduct more than 3,000 babyl consultations per day, disrupting the healthcare system. Receiving the MacArthur grant would help to support and scale Babylon Rwanda to other African countries.”

Middlesex University invests in VR to better spot sepsis

Middlesex University has purchased five VR virtual reality (VR) headsets to help student nurses better spot patients with sepsis.

The headsets were bought from Oxford Medical Simulation (OMS) which can recreate scenarios in a digital environment that nurses would face in real life.

It is one of the first universities to roll out the technology for nursing students.

While wearing the Oculus Rift VR headsets, students are transported to a fully interactive and immersive hospital ward where they must ask patients questions to diagnose their condition and decide on the best treatment while making sure they follow certain procedures.

The student nurses can develop confidence in tackling 20 different scenarios – which are simulated through the headsets – including patients who have difficulty breathing, diabetes, COPD and severe allergies.

Currently, third year adult nursing and paediatric postgraduates are using the virtual wards with plans to make the learning available to midwifery students later in 2020.

After training in virtual reality hospital wards, the students can get personalised feedback and grades using a detailed analytics engine to help them evaluate their efforts with tutors.

Fiona Suthers, head of the clinical skills department, said: “Any simulation is only as good as the way it is debriefed so you have to use a very definitive evaluation tool led by experienced people which is embedded in the curriculum effectively.

“Students can obtain the feedback, see how well they have performed and discuss the results after their own internal reflection, so learning can emerge through the actions that are right or wrong.

“This technology is allowing students to make mistakes without repercussions.

“The students can feel empowered to make decisions that they wouldn’t feel comfortable making because can make mistakes safely and take more risks – which enhances their learning process.”

More on VR…

A cancer researcher and a virtual reality expert have come together to create an original product to help cancer patients – and have launched a crowdfunder to help the technology get rolled out.

The Anywhere Else crowdfunder is the brainchild of Dr Jacqueline Hall, a leader in cancer research, and Stefano Bianchi, a VR specialist.

It will fund a personalised VR experience for patients to use while undergoing chemotherapy to reduce fear and psychological stress.

The project is something that Stefano, 40, is particularly passionate about after fighting cancer in his 20s. He said: “Whilst I know that this isn’t a cure for cancer, I know the importance and difficulty of maintaining your quality of life and mood during treatment.

“Cancer can make you feel isolated, lonely and that you are losing control of your body and of your life, so I wanted to do something to help.”

Anywhere Else is personalised to the user’s preference and age to make the treatment less distressing.

The duo have already started work on a basic version and tested it on patients, however funding is required to develop a comprehensive first version to gain certification before it can be rolled out to patients for free through the NHS.

Initial tests highlighted that patients averaged a reduction of between 35% to 45% of pain and supporting literature shows that VR can have a positive effect on mood, positivity, treatment compliance and ultimately this could translate to better outcomes for patients.

Dr Jacqueline Hall added: “The Anywhere Else VR experience is all about improving the experience for those undergoing cancer treatment.  Anything we can do to reduce the feelings of loneliness and distress for people going through this is good for our patients wellbeing.”

Capital Rx crowned winner of Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge

Capital Rx has been named Innovation Champion of the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge, which recognises innovative approaches and solutions that improve the way people access, manage and finance healthcare in North America.

Established in 2016, the Accenture HealthTech Innovation Challenge pairs participating start-ups with prominent health organisations.

Capital Rx, based in New York City received the top award for its Clearinghouse ModelSM that connects pharmacies and employers to establish a marketplace for drug pricing to reduce costs and create a better experience for both plan sponsors and patients.

Capital Rx is a pharmacy benefit manager redefining prescription drug pricing for employers, unions and government entities.

“Receiving the designation as Innovation Champion is a validation of our mission to change the way drugs are priced and administered, and it represents the broad support across the country to transform the antiquated and opaque pricing model for prescription drugs,” said AJ Loiacono, CEO of Capital Rx.

The second-place award for Top Innovator, was given to Minneapolis-based Carrot Health.

Carrot Health provides consumer data analytics to highlight social determinants of health, engage healthcare consumers, close gaps in care, and optimize performance for payer and provider systems.

Brian Kalis, managing director of digital health and innovation at Accenture, said: “The submissions we received this year demonstrate the momentum of discovery and digital innovation in healthcare.

“Healthcare organisations continue to advance their digital transformation agendas — enhancing access, affordability, quality and experience to drive innovation that improves the lives of consumers and clinicians. We look forward to working with these companies and others to continue to help advance solutions that address the industry’s toughest challenges.”