MSD and Verily collaborate on NHS England’s tech health projects

What if healthcare systems could use data to predict which of their most vulnerable patients were going to get sick, and when?

While this sounds like a healthcare version of the Tom Cruise sci-fi film Minority Report, it could soon be a reality thanks to a new collaboration taking place in the north-west of England.

MSD is teaming up with Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences) and England’s national health service on a ‘Long Term Conditions Early Intervention’ programme.

The pilot is just one of five ‘Test Bed’ schemes being unveiled today across England’s NHS to try out new approaches and new technology to improve healthcare. This is particularly needed in long-term conditions (LTCs) such as heart disease and COPD, where failure to manage the conditions can see patients admitted as emergencies.

The head of the NHS in England Simon Stevens is determined to make the health system a world leader – even as it wrestles with huge financial problems – and has chosen to unveil the pilots today in his speech at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Around 15 million people in England are living with such long-term conditions, and by preventing emergency admissions, the NHS could help patients stay healthier for longer, and avoid expensive hospital treatment.

The project partners will analyse a combination of traditional healthcare data with non-traditional to predict which patients are at risk of LTCs, such as heart failure and COPD. The project is being run in collaboration with the NHS clinical commissioning group (CCG) in Heywood, Middleton and Rochdale in Greater Manchester.

MSD says the collaboration has been made possible by its strength in data intelligence, and that it demonstrates its ongoing support of innovative approaches to healthcare.

“This is a ground breaking initiative for MSD and Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences). Bringing together experts from the UK and the globe to execute innovation in a real life setting, we believe it will change the way healthcare is delivered, said Dr Junaid Bajwa, NHS GP and Director of Healthcare Services at MSD in the UK.

Andy Conrad, Chief Executive Officer of Verily, said: “This partnership between the NHS, MSD and Verily will determine if data analysis technology can help the NHS better prevent, detect and manage disease. Our hope is to help create a more preventative model for managing long term conditions like heart failure and lung disease.”

Health E Research and the Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network will also be involved in the pilot, which will not just include data-crunching, but will also focus on training healthcare professionals to support patients in practical ways.

The project will involve analysing trends and patterns in LTCs to identify patients who would most benefit from tele-health, tele-care and tele-medicine technology. These patients will receive a more personalised service, in particular being proactively offered additional physician support and access to technology.

The new Test Bed alliances are part of a trend for pharma companies, tech firms and healthcare providers to collaborate on new approaches to patient care, but the NHS’ investment in them could make them one of the most significant such alliances anywhere in the world.

The first wave of Test Beds includes five health and care Test Beds and two ‘Internet of Things’ Test Beds. The sites will be spread across different areas of England, including the West of England, Surrey, Sheffield and Birmingham.

A large number of technology based companies are involved in these pilots, including IBM and Philips and many smaller innovative firms.

Read more about the NHS Test Bed programme

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