This edition of Digital Health News industry round-up includes projects focusing on artificial intelligence (AI), an app to tackle health inequalities and a project to use primary care data to help eradicate hepatitis C.

Royal Marsden uses AI to study kidney cancer

The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust and the Francis Crick Institute are working with AI start-up Owkin to gain a better understanding of how kidney cancers evolve to help improve treatment for the disease.

By studying the evolutionary features of a tumour and understanding how it has evolved through a series of genetic changes over time, scientists hope to help doctors predict a patient’s outcome, meaning they can tailor treatment to individuals to improve health outcomes.

Dr Samra Turajlic, group leader at the Francis Crick Institute and consultant medical oncologist at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that the outcomes of any individual patient with kidney cancer are determined by the distinct way their tumour evolves. We want to be able to predict the next step in a tumour’s evolutionary trajectory and better tailor treatments that can effectively tackle a patient’s cancer.

“New technologies and tools are critical in helping us achieve this at a scale and speed that is required in clinical practice, and at a cost that will make these measurements implementable in most healthcare systems.”

The AI technology will analyse over 1,000 tissue samples from 100 different tumours. It hopes that it will be able to draw links between the histological characteristics of a tumour with patient outcomes. This will also support the move to precision medicine.

The project will use rapid and low-cost AI on digital pathology, helping the day-to-day management of patients in a cost-effective way.

Thomas Clozel, co-founder and CEO of Owkin, said: “By using AI to improve our fundamental understanding of cancer tumours, we aim to enable doctors to move towards a precision medicine approach to treatment. We are excited to be working with the Crick Institute and the Royal Marsden Hospital to make a lasting difference to the lives of patients.”

First Scottish dentist to trial AI tech

Clyde Munro Dental Group is the first dental service in Scotland to trial artificial intelligence which can improve the accuracy of the prevention and diagnosis of early tooth decay.

Five dentists within the group have started the trial of AssistDent technology, created by AI dental specialists, Manchester Imaging.

The technology works by detecting early enamel changes in patients. It uses machine learning algorithms to analyse dental radiographs and highlight any areas of potential concerns – specifically enamel-only proximal. If caught early enough and treated with non-invasive methods, fillings could be avoided.

Clyde Munro’s chief operating officer, Fiona Wood, said: “Scotland has a major problem with tooth decay and if decay is left untreated it can lead to teeth being lost.

“We always aim for prevention – and this technology has the potential to support our dentists in identifying the early signs of tooth decay before it develops and to direct the prevent care needed to the correct teeth. The AI is a useful tool to show and demonstrate to patients areas of dental need or concern to give the patient the chance to reverse enamel changes with support from Clyde Munro dentists.”

Primary care data used to help eliminate hepatitis C

A pilot study has been launched which will use primary care records to speed up the early diagnosis and treatment of people unknowingly living with hepatitis C in England.

The programme is led by NHS England in collaboration with MSD. It will use Patient Search Identification (PSI) software alongside EMIS Pathway, which helps to find patients with or at risk of certain conditions.

From the autumn, the pilot scheme will search approximately 300,000 primary care records. It will search for patients who have a coded hepatitis C virus positive test but no treatment record. It will also look for patients with risk factors, such as intravenous drug use, blood transfusions or organ transplantation before 1992.

As the programme identifies at-risk patients, one of seven operational delivery networks (ODN) will invite them for a review, screening and if needed treatment.

Dr Ian Wood, a GP and EMIS clinical director, said: “At a time when primary care is enormously overstretched with both a workload and workforce crisis, it was critical that any new technology aiming to reverse and spearhead this did not exacerbate the capacity issue.

“The pilot aims to address this gap. It realises the value and power of primary care data, combined with EMIS-X Analytics, in identifying cohorts of patients across a region who might benefit from an intervention.

“This is a challenge that can be tackled well in multiple healthcare settings, so rather than keep these lists within the GP practice, all the necessary data permissions and safeguarding is in place to share with the most relevant healthcare team that can best meet those patients’ needs.”

The pilot programme requires GP practices to share only the relevant primary care data with specialist secondary care teams within the local ODN.

Sandwell tackles health inequalities with digital app

Sandwell Council has secured funding from The Healthy Ageing Challenge, and will now work with Health Fabric to help tackle health inequalities.

The council’s Healthy Sandwell initiative aims to improve health and wellbeing for the local community. It will be working with Health Fabric and local stakeholders for the next two years.

Health Fabric’s Unity platform has been developed to create health information in many languages that can be delivered through an app. It’s supported by a unique approach to engaging directly with BAME communities to encourage uptake and adoption.

Councillor Suzanne Hartwell, Sandwell Council’s cabinet member for adult social care and health said: “This is a great digital intervention that can make a real difference to the health and wellbeing of our local residents. Receiving the right guidance and support to manage long-term health conditions can make a significant difference to people’s quality of life.

“This digital intervention will provide this and make a tangible difference to our communities that may currently face barriers to easily access support.”

A range of content and services for people with long-term conditions will be developed to help them age well. This includes content for type 2 diabetics and those with mental health conditions.

The platform helps health and care professionals to segment their populations and create effective health and wellness campaigns. It supports the creation of culturally sensitive information in multiple languages, which helps to make advice and services more equitable.

In addition, the app allows uses to record data, such as mood or weight, and access self-help plans to help them self-manage their conditions.

The funding run was run by UK Research and Innovation and Innovate UK, in a bid to find new ways to meet the challenges of an ageing population.

Infohealth acquires medically-approved diabetes app

A pharmacy-led developer of hyper-personalised digital health solutions, Infohealth Ltd, has acquired Quin Technology’s digital therapeutic application for self-management of type 1 diabetes.

The T1D app works with continuous glucose monitoring wearable devices. It uses data extracted from these devices and combines it with other input parameters such as dietary intake, exercise and insulin dosing.

It then uses artificial intelligence to produce charts showing the impact of lifestyle choices and insulin dosing on blood glucose levels.

In addition the AI technology can show the potential impact of future decisions on blood sugar levels, based on individual user’s data.

Rajive Patel, director of Infohealth, said: “With global health systems burdened by workforce issues, underfunding and inherent inefficiencies, there is an urgent need for health technology companies to lead the charge in developing personalised health solutions that address the shortage in clinical resources, whilst fundamentally engaging patients to become more active in their own health management.

“Our approach is to reposition digital pharmacy away from being primarily a commoditised supplier of prescription medications, and move to becoming a provider of hyper-personalised care, with a core focus on predicting which patients will benefit from proactive interventions.”