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Funding released to support winners of coronavirus technology challenge

To help support the most vulnerable during the pandemic, NHSX and its partners are testing a range of digital solutions submitted as part of fast-track technology competition

A range of innovative digital solutions designed to support vulnerable people during the Covid-19 coronavirus pandemic have been awarded funding as part of the TechForce19 challenge.

Launched on 23 March by digital innovation unit NHSX and govtech startup accelerator Public, the aim of the challenge is to provide support for those who are particularly vulnerable or isolated during the pandemic, including new parents, unpaid carers, the homeless, young people and cancer patients.

The 18 winning projects – which were chosen by NHSX, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) from a pool of more than 1,600 submissions – will now receive up to £25,000 each in funding to rapidly trial and deploy their ideas.

“The TechForce19 challenge has harnessed some of the incredible talent we have in our tech sector, to help the most vulnerable and many of the problems created by isolation lend themselves to digital solutions. We hope this process will help people take advantage of the potential that digital technology offers,” said Iain O’Neil, NHSX director of digital transformation.

“The 18 companies we are announcing today have the potential to help a number of the key affected groups during Covid-19, including young parents, the elderly at home, and the homeless, as well as giving people tools to look after their own mental health during isolation.”

These companies include Feebris, an app to help carers identify health risks and deterioration within elderly communities; Beam, a digital platform to support the homeless by taking referrals from local authorities and homeless charities; and SureCert, a system that connects people with job and volunteering opportunities in their area.

The projects have now moved into the testing phase, which will last for two to three weeks and be followed by an assessment to better understand the potential and scope for accelerated deployment at scale.

The process will also demonstrate how the solutions can be deployed specifically to meet Covid-19 needs, and a range of impacts will be considered before national roll-out, including access and use of technologies, clinical measures where appropriate, and feedback from vulnerable groups regarding feelings of loneliness, safety and support.

“As social distancing measures continue, today’s selections amount to a wealth of possible answers to helping the most vulnerable through these difficult times,” said Public CEO Daniel Korski.

“These companies demonstrate the valuable role for new technologies in helping public services adapt to new challenges, and we’re excited to follow their journeys from here through to deployment.”

The 15 other winning innovations are:

Chanua and Neurolove to support young people with mental health

Chanua provides Neurolove.org, a platform providing a friendly ear and human support for young people to help them to keep virtually social and safe online.

It supports young people to manage anxiety and low mood, enabling them to can book sessions directly with mentors and therapists, as well as find content that will support them to manage their emotional and mental health in this current period of uncertainty.

Peppy for new parents

Peppy helps parents-to-be and new parents remotely access trusted, convenient advice from perinatal and mental health experts. This includes remote support via phone/video with lactation consultants, baby sleep consultants, specialist mental health support and more. Peppy provides timely interventions that reduce stress, anxiety and burn out for parents-to-be and new parents.

Team Kinetic for volunteers

TeamKinetic’s digital platform helps organisations better manage community-led volunteer programmes. The solution helps to manage recruitment and retention of volunteers, as well as monitoring the impact of these programmes in real time.

TeamKinetic are also looking at developing and documenting some open standards and establishing a model for better service interconnectivity across the voluntary sector.

Vine Health for cancer patients

Vinehealth is a mobile app to support cancer patients and their loved ones during treatment by allowing them to easily track and understand their care, including their symptoms, side effects, appointments and medications.

By completing a one-minute daily log, cancer patients can develop a clear overview of their progress through treatment and access advice on how to cope and when to access health services. The Vinehealth app empowers cancer patients who are self-isolating to self-manage and feel more in control.

Alcuris Ltd

Alcuris’ Memohub prolongs the independence of elderly or vulnerable people, enabling them to return to home quicker, from hospital discharge.

A digital platform collates data from unobtrusive sensors placed in the home, then provides actionable alerts when behaviour changes, enabling families to intervene early to delay or reduce the frequency of professional ‘crisis intervention’ help. This gives families a reassurance of loved one’s safety and wellbeing even when left alone for extended periods.

MemoHub provides objective information to inform professional care planning.

Ampersand

Ampersand Health’s self-management apps help people with long-term, immune-mediated diseases (such as Crohn’s and Colitis) to live happier and healthier lives.

Using behavioural and data science, the apps deliver courses and programmes designed to improve sleep quality, stress management and medication adherence, with modules for activity, diet and relationships in the works. During the Covid-19 crisis, this will help these people to better manage their conditions and reduce the need for clinical support.

Ampersand are also offering their clinical management portal free of charge to NHS Trusts until January 2021. This will allow clinical teams to help manage their patients remotely.

Aparito

Aparito uses remote monitoring technology (videos, wearables, photos and text) to gather patient-generated data outside of hospital. This is focused on patients with rare diseases.

Data is captured and transferred via the patient’s own smartphone/tablet and made available to clinicians or researchers in real-time to help avoid direct contact during the Covid-19 crisis.

Birdie

Birdie provides a digital platform for home care agencies to better manage the care they provide. Through an easy-to-use app, care workers capture daily visit logs, and a central hub allows staff to track real-time information.

Family members receive live and daily safety and well-being updates through the app, including from optional home-monitoring sensors. Birdie helps domiciliary care agencies to increase efficiency, and improves the care people receive in their homes through systematic monitoring, prevention of risks, and support to carers.

Buddi

Buddi Connect is a smartphone app which enabling people to stay in touch with those they care for. Safe groups of connections are united through the app to share private, secure messages and raise instant alerts when help is needed. Important messages from the NHS can be shared directly to users.

During this difficult time, while many vulnerable people are missing the face-to-face contact of family, friends and carers, the reassurance that help is available at the touch of a button is more important than ever.

Just Checking

Just Checking supplies activity monitoring systems used by local authorities to help with assessment of older people in their homes, for social care. Sensors pick up activities of daily living and display the data in a 24-hour chart. The company also has a second, more sophisticated activity monitoring system to help manage the care and support of adults with learning disabilities.

Peopletoo Ltd/ Novoville

Peopletoo and Novoville have been selected to launch GetVolunteering, a volunteering app to fast track volunteers into clinical and non-clinical roles to support the fight against Covid-19.

It will enable local authorities to quickly identify and assess capable volunteers in the local community to fill key roles to support social care in areas that have been affected by loss of staffing capacity due to Covid-19, or for new roles that are required during the crisis.

RIX Research & Media, University of East London

The RIX Multi Me toolkit provides highly accessible and secure social networking that serves as a support network for people with learning disabilities and mental health challenges.

This easy-to-use multimedia network, with accompanying communication, personal-organiser and goal-setting tools, enables isolated and distanced vulnerable people to build stronger support circles. It helps them self-manage their care and actively limit the impact and spread of Covid-19 infection.

Care professionals use the Stay Connected RIX Multi Me Toolkit to remotely monitor and support people’s wellbeing in an efficient and friendly way. 

Simply Do

Simply Do will develop a virtual community of NHS medical professionals currently in self-isolation. These employees have significant expertise, experience and skills which can be unlocked virtually to help solve Covid-19 care challenges set within the platform.

This will create a powerful ‘think-tank’ of medical professionals to contribute virtually to fight Covid-19 by solving wider health challenges, such as challenges faced in the care sector.

VideoVisit Ltd

VideoVisit HOME allows the elderly to communicate with their family members and home care providers through a virtual care tablet designed specifically for elderly. VideoVisit will measure how this virtual home care service can increase people’s feeling of safety and decrease loneliness during self-isolation.

Virti

Virti aims to make experiential education affordable and accessible for everyone. Virtual and augmented reality, coupled with artificial intelligence (AI), transports users into difficult-to-access environments and safely assesses them under pressure to improve their performance. The system is used for training and patient education.

Source: NHSX

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