Developing tech for good across the region

13th October 2020

An innovative collaborative project supported by the AHSN NENC which aims to identify high-risk children with asthma, has been shortlisted for the ‘Tech for Good’ Dynamo Award.

The BeatAsthma+ pathway is clinically-led by Paediatric Respiratory Physicians from South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust (STSFT), and The Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust as well as clinicians from across primary care with support from the AHSN NENC.

Here, Charlotte Fox, Innovation Manager at the AHSN NENC, talks about the importance of digital innovation and cross-sector collaboration within healthcare, particularly during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“Now is the right time to be having conversations with innovators that need support to navigate the landscape so we can bring different sectors together to look at impactful solutions for healthcare.”

There’s no denying that the healthcare landscape has changed significantly over the last six months. And while this shift has thrown up some challenges, it’s also paved the way for new and innovative approaches to the way we deliver care.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen the important role that digital innovation plays within healthcare. By bringing in new and emerging digital innovations and ways of working, patient care can be improved, and healthcare providers also benefit from service efficiencies.

The Dynamo Award shortlisting for our collaborative work on BeatAsthma+ further reinforces the importance of bringing the healthcare and digital sectors together to provide a catalyst for innovation.

BeatAsthma+ was born out of the joining of two separate projects, facilitated by myself and my colleague Sue Hart, Health Programme Manager at the AHSN NENC. At our Digital Catalyst event last year, Dr Katherine Eastham, Paediatric Respiratory Consultant from STSFT, pitched their service improvement innovation – the Paediatric Emergency Department Asthma Assessment Tool (PEDAAT) – which is used to identify children with asthma presenting at the emergency department that are at higher risk of death or admission to hospital.

This work was evaluated and it had really good results, but it was clear that the impact of the tool could be much greater if it were used within primary care, which would allow for earlier intervention so patients don’t end up presenting to the emergency department.

Dr Eastham was keen to combine the PEEDAT tool with work by Dr Jen Townshend, Paediatric Respiratory Consultant at Newcastle Hospitals, on BeatAsthma. BeatAsthma is an evidence-based education and support resource for health professionals to standardise the way asthma care is delivered, ensuring it is of the highest quality meeting national recommendations, as well as for children with asthma and their families.

This is where the AHSN NENC were able to help connect the dots and forge partnerships that could help make this a reality. We were keen to support bringing the two asthma-focussed innovations together – the service improvement element and the award-winning resources – so that we could facilitate building the pathway into primary care systems to enable high-risk asthma patients to be identified quicker and, in turn, given tailored support around their asthma.

We have worked with both clinicians to bring together primary care professionals from PCNs and CCGs across the region to co-create this expansive asthma pathway, which the Clinical Digital Resource Collaborative (CDRC) is building into primary care systems.

It’s incredibly rewarding to see this emerging pathway receive recognition from Dynamo. There is such huge potential to digitalise more pathways within healthcare and we want to do this working closely with the digital sector.

It is so important that digital innovators and digital companies come and seek support from the AHSN NENC as early as possible so we can help them understand the healthcare landscape. It is our role to help innovators navigate the complexities of the healthcare system. In reverse, it’s also our role to help healthcare innovators navigate industry.

If anything, COVID-19 has shown us that healthcare is open to innovation and we want everyone to know that our (metaphorical) door is always open.

Now is the right time to be having conversations with innovators that need support to navigate the landscape so we can bring different sectors together to look at impactful solutions for healthcare.