We all habitually carry digital technology with us. Increasingly, we will use it to measure, prompt, inform, transact and advise ourselves about our health. This is a huge opportunity for an over-stretched healthcare system. Nesta’s Health Lab is developing a portfolio of digital health projects that improve our ability to target care precisely, support behaviour change, and empower patients.
Why are we doing this?
We believe that digital technology is one of a small number of genuine opportunities to sustain the health and care system. By giving us a more detailed picture of what is happening with patients, we can learn to target care much more effectively: earlier, via predictive analytics, and in a way that is more tailored individual need, via a more precise understanding of disease and treatment. We can also support patients to care for themselves by creating effective tools for behaviour change and self care.
To build this understanding of how to better target care, and support patients to care for themselves, we need a new approach to research and learning. This requires communities of patients who use digital technology to manage their health and who are happy to record data and share it with researchers in a way that allows research conclusions to be drawn. This requires innovation in terms of interfaces, consent processes, data models and analytics.
What are we doing?
We are supporting a number of health tech and data research projects as well as practical programmes. A few examples include:
Doctor Know: A Knowledge Commons in Health, a report that examined a number of ways in new sources of data and ways of orchestrating knowledge might change the way healthcare is delivered in coming decades. We sketched out a "knowledge commons”: an open system of knowledge with researchers, practising clinicians, patients, their families and communities all involved in capturing, refining and utilising a common body of knowledge in real time.
We are backing three digital health initiatives through the Centre for Social Action Innovation Fund with the Cabinet Office:
- Big-PD by uMotif: a data driven community for those with Parkinson’s Disease (PD). Big-PD aims to use accelerometer and other data to track body movements, and give early warning signs of medication wearing off. Clinicians, and often patients themselves, should be able to medicate much more accurately. The research data could also become valuable in the early diagnosis of PD.
- Alcohol Relapse Prevention Programme by d2 Digital: a digital platform that supports behaviour change. Those leaving alcohol rehab are sent a text message every day to see how they are doing. Depending on their response, they either get a personalised motivational message or a call from a professional or peer. There is strong evidence of impact for this type of intervention, with those who are alcohol-free completing the intervention rising from 40-70 per cent.
- Beyond Boundaries by Body and Soul: digitising peer to peer support for young adults with HIV. Building on Body and Soul’s successful face-to-face peer support, Beyond Boundaries allows peers to support each other daily, with varying levels of intensity and at a time convenient to them. Increasingly peer support can be delivered exactly when it is needed which allows peer support to take a much more fundamental role in people’s day to day lives.
Our Dementia Citizens programme, funded by the Department of Health, is another data driven community. It will allow people with dementia (and their families and carers) to take part in research, making it easy to find appropriate opportunities, give consent, and interact digitally with researchers. The aim is to create a fast, cheap, and effective way of exploring the potential of digital technology to improve care and provide insight, and to do so with the active participation of people affected by dementia.