LiverNerds Lab opens in Liverpool

MobiHealthNews visited Liverpool's Life Sciences Accelerator, in the UK, for the launch of the new digital testing space last week.
By Leontina Postelnicu
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Global digital exemplar

Aiming to improve health and social care services, a new lab named LiverNerds is giving innovators a space to test new digital solutions.

It brings together the work of an NHS trust through the flagship global digital exemplar programme and the city’s £3.5m 5G health and social care pilot, and last week, MobiHealthNews went to visit Liverpool’s Life Sciences Accelerator for its launch.

The lab, dubbed the “first digital testing space of its kind”, is made up of a smart room that simulates a hospital room and a smart house that simulates an individual’s house.

Technologies that are currently being trialled include a device called PAMAN, which provides a video link to a local pharmacy to help people take their medicines at home safely, and a Push to Talk app that helps connect elderly people for a chat to reduce loneliness.

The smart house brings together a mix of technologies similar to these, with the 5G network used designed by British company Blu Wireless, and innovations readily available on the market, such as an alarm under the pillow that detects whether a person is out of bed.

“When you discharge patients home or to avoid them coming in, there’s a whole raft of IoT-type technologies that can support that,” David Walliker, chief information officer at the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, told MobiHealthNews, explaining the premise behind the smart house.

"But the issue certainly in Liverpool has been previously that it required those people to have broadband into their homes, and the deprivation here in Liverpool means that’s not always possible. The driver behind the 5G test lab was actually, could we use the 5G technology as a sort of civic network, in effect, for the IoT devices to connect into, so that the network is already there, and then it’s about establishing what are the right technologies for that, how is the best way of managing that, and not collecting information for the sake of collecting it.

“We find that actually the best technologies are co-designed with the people that are going to use them, so one of the purposes behind the smart house is to actually bring in focus groups, patient groups, SMEs, etc., so that they can test it, prototype-mode, before it goes into production, because although a solution might be brilliant, the interface or the economics of it might not [be]," Walliker added.

It also includes technology that they’ve already rolled out: the telehealth equipment from Docobo, the company that won a three-year contract to help the NHS Liverpool Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) scale its telehealth services towards the end of 2017.

Dave Horsfield, digital care and innovation lead at the CCG, told MobiHealthNews that research showed a "22 to 32 percent reduction in A&E admissions and costs from patients with long-term conditions using this technology".

“If you start talking about the future of healthcare, and you start talking about not having enough nurses, not enough doctors, a large amount of the population who are going to be elderly, with a variety of different long-term conditions, this is how we are going to manage them without having to try and find a workforce that doesn’t exist,” Horsfield said. 

However, they have to ensure they “bring traditional community services on the journey”, the CCG lead added.

“We’ve got to convince the clinicians who take personal responsibility for an individual say, it is safe to use, it is useful and it gets the right results for your patients. If you can’t answer those questions, your technology won’t go anywhere, and we know that, we spent a lot of time making mistakes over the last 10 years, and we’ve learned that lesson."

In 2017, then health secretary Jeremy Hunt asked Dr Eric Topol, executive vice president of Scripps Research, to lead an independent review looking at how technology would affect the skills of the healthcare workforce over the next two decades and its implications. Published at the beginning of the year, the review warned that all staff would need “digital and genomics literacy” by 2040, with 9 in 10 jobs in the NHS requiring an “element of digital skills”.