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NHS England to launch innovation 'test beds’

Seven NHS ‘test beds’ will pilot tech such as wearables, apps, monitors and sensors to improve patient care

NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens will launch the first wave of NHS Innovation Test Beds at the World Economic Forum in Davos on 22 January.

The test beds include five for health and care innovations and two for internet of things (IoT), with health and care workers evaluating the combination of devices and data analysis to see how they can best help patients.

The innovations that prove successful will be made available to NHS and care organisations around the country.

The test beds are a result of collaboration between the NHS and suppliers such as IBM, Phillips and Verily. The aim is to modernise how the NHS delivers care.

One of the IoT test beds is the Diabetes Digital Coach, in the West of England. Patients will be given wearable sensors for remote monitoring and mobile self-management tools to help them manage their condition themselves. 

The other IoT pilot is a collaboration between Surrey and Borders Partnership NHS trust and a number of health tech providers to help people with dementia live at home for longer. 

Individuals and carers will be given wearables, monitors and other devices to help them take control over their own health and enable staff to deliver responsive services.

“Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service,” Stevens is expected to say at Davos.

Piloting the tech

Other pilot sites include the Care City Health and Care Test Bed, which brings together several innovators to test and evaluate combinations of technologies, such as an online tool for people with dementia and a social network app, which can help people manage their conditions. 

In Birmingham and Solihull, digital tools such as online support and risk assessments will be used to help people at risk of a mental health crisis, as well as using predictive analysis tech to identify those at risk.

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PwC estimates that the “connected healthcare” market in the UK will be worth nearly £2bn by 2020, according to an analysis published 22 January by the professional services firm.

Quentin Cole, healthcare partner at PwC, said that the massive growth in the connected healthcare market will create huge opportunities.

“In the UK that could be worth almost £2bn. By 2020 we expect it will be worth £37bn globally, an average increase of 33% each year. Much of that growth will come from online prescriptions and an expansion in m-Health, with both the public and private sectors making investments in this area,” he said.

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