Coronavirus developments continue to move at breakneck speed, resulting in a flurry of announcements on how healthcare providers and suppliers are mobilising themselves around the outbreak.

Much of this has centred on how the NHS can meet a surge in demand for digital services brought on by Covid-19, both enabling doctors to continue seeing patients, as well as supporting those involved in the delivery of healthcare to stay connected.

This week saw a number of important developments concerning digital responses to coronavirus. Here’s a recap of our coverage on Digital Health News.

NHSX working on coronavirus contact tracking app

NHSX has revealed it is in the process of developing a contact tracking app to monitor the spread of coronavirus.

The app, which would operate on an opt-in basis, would alert people to new cases in their area as well as allowing people to input their own symptoms, Digital Health News understands.

Matthew Gould, chief executive of NHSX, said: “NHSX are looking at whether app-based solutions might be helpful in tracking and managing coronavirus, and we have assembled expertise from inside and outside the organisation to do this as rapidly as possible.”

A team of medical research experts at Oxford University are currently exploring the feasibility of a coronavirus mobile app for instant contact tracing.

The team has provided European governments, including the UK, with evidence to support the feasibility of developing an app that is instant and can be widely deployed and recommends a mobile application should form part of an integrated coronavirus control strategy that identifies infected people and their recent person-to-person contacts using digital technology.

Exclusive: 11 suppliers chosen to provide video consults during Covid-19

Eleven suppliers have been selected to provide video consultations for primary care to help the NHS cope with unprecedented patient demand during the coronavirus outbreak, Digital Health News understands.

They were selected from a group of 33 trusted suppliers that were sent a confidential 48-hour tender for the immediate provision of online primary care consultation by NHS England last week.

The accelerated tender documents were due to be evaluated and awarded by midday on Monday, 23 March. It is understood that successful suppliers were notified on 25 March.

The suppliers chosen to provide video consultations include: LIVI, Doctorlink, eConsult, EMIS, Engage Consult, PreGP, Q Doctor, Lincus, Ask NHS, FootFall and Visiba Care.

Each supplier has been told they will be working with a number Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) but the exact regions are yet to be confirmed.

NHSX tech funding to support people in isolation from coronavirus

NHSX has announced £500,000 of funding for innovators who can offer digital solutions to support those self-isolating because of coronavirus.

The TechForce19 challenge, launched on 23 March, aims to quickly bring to market technology that can help people likely to be impacted most by self-isolation, including those with mental health issues or requiring social care support.

The programme is looking for digital solutions that can be deployed quickly, and could include remote social care support, tools for recruiting, training and coordinating local volunteers, tools for assessing the demand of workforce resources around the country and digital services for self-managing mental health and wellbeing.

Up to £25,000 is available to each company that participates, with the aim to have the solutions deployed “at scale” within weeks.

The government also wishes to hear from any innovators with technology that could help to “ease pressures on services and people” amid the ongoing Covid-19 outbreak.

National data opt-out deadline pushed back to alleviate Covid-19 response

NHS Digital and NHSX have extended the deadline for the national data opt-out by six months to allow NHS organisations to focus on the Covid-19 outbreak.

In a letter sent to staff, Jackie Grey, executive director of information governance at NHS Digital and Kathy Hall, NHSX’s director of technology and data strategy, said the deadline by which health and social care organisations must comply with the opt-out policy would be moved from March to September.

The letter explained that the decision had been made to enable staff to cope with the “significant pressures” expected over the coming months caused by Covid-19.

The national data opt-out allows patients to choose how their health data is used outside of their direct care for research and planning purposes by the NHS.

GoodSAM app being used to recruit NHS volunteers

The GoodSAM app is being used to help recruit around a quarter of a million volunteers for the NHS during the coronavirus outbreak.

The digital tool is usually used to alert those with medical training to nearby emergencies so that potentially life-saving interventions can be given before the arrival of emergency services.

However, the app is now being used to help recruit volunteers for the NHS by helping people offer their services to people in need.

NHS Volunteer Responders can be called on to do simple but vital tasks, including:

  • Delivering medicines from pharmacies
  • Driving patients to appointments
  • Bringing them home from hospital
  • Making regular phone calls to check on people isolating at home

You can follow the latest news on digital responses to coronavirus on Digital Health’s Covid-19 Live Blog.

Digital Health Unplugged will be publishing a special coronavirus edition of the podcast on 27 March to keep you up-to-date on the latest news from the NHS and suppliers as the outbreak continues. You can tune in on Spotify, iTunes and Apple Podcasts as well as on Digital Health News.

Please note that Digital Health is a media organisation and cannot help with access to NHS services, or provide medical guidance on coronavirus.