A digital healthcare company based at Nexus, has been awarded a £2.2 million grant by the National Institute for Health and Care Research (NIHR) to accelerate its bid to cut waiting times and relieve pressure on the NHS.
The grant to Itecho Health – which was co-founded by former NHS consultant Dr Adrian Brown and digital tech expert Lalit Suryawanshi – is one of the largest in the current series of the prestigious NIHR i4i (invention for innovation) Challenge awards.
It will enable the company to evaluate the experience of more than five thousand patients with long-term health conditions, using its dedicated healthcare platform Ascelus as a “virtual clinic” to connect with clinicians. A collaborative research project, it will see Itecho Health work with 11 partner organisations across the UK, including the University of Leeds and three NHS Trusts.
The study will also examine the cost benefits of reducing face-to-face appointments and how much that would contribute to a greener NHS and its ambitions to achieve Net Zero carbon emissions by 2040. Dr Adrian Brown comments:
“Our aim has always been to relieve pressure on our health service, by creating efficient virtual assessments, where patients with chronic conditions can more easily access information and communicate with their clinicians on their smartphones and devices. By identifying patients most at risk (including the use of algorithms and artificial intelligence), the healthcare platform can free up clinician time for more face-to-face appointments with patients who have more complex needs and enable more resources to be devoted to vital patient care.
“We’re also looking closely at digital inclusion to ensure that no patients are left behind due to their social circumstances, ethnicity, language spoken, age or familiarity with apps and digital support.”
Itecho Health is working with five patient-focused charities: Leukaemia Care, Sickle Cell Society, CLL Support, Myeloma UK and MDS UK on the project, supporting patients across eight specific blood disorders. Dr Brown added:
“Feedback from the specialist charities has been tremendous. They are telling us that in addition to simplifying the process for accessing information from their clinicians, the app has the potential to increase peoples’ engagement with patient support groups, giving them easier access to shared experiences, advice and a vital sense of community.”
“This award is a massive boost to our growing team and enables us to accelerate our research and development. We’ll share our findings with patient groups, professionals and teams responsible for buying NHS services across the UK, with a view to adapting our platform for patients with many other long-term conditions.
“There is no doubt that being part of the Nexus innovation hub in Leeds was fundamental to achieving this funding. The Nexus team has supported us every step of the way – from identifying the innovation grant and helping us to draft and submit our application, to finding the right partners and academic expertise to deliver a major collaborative project. As a small business we could not have achieved this without them.”
Nexus Director, Dr Martin Stow, commented: “It is such a pleasure to work with the Itecho Health team and we’re delighted to have helped them achieve this substantial investment to continue their ground-breaking work in digital healthcare. Everything they do is designed to improve the experience of patients living with long-term conditions and to free up more time for vital face-to-face appointments. Their work and the outcomes they are achieving is truly inspirational.”
The Itecho Health team created Ascelus, enabling patients who need regular monitoring to input and track their own symptoms and allowing doctors to access their patients’ blood and pathology results online, review them and send on to their patients with any messages and advice.
Working closely with patients, clinicians and carers, to ensure the process is accessible and inclusive, the platform became a key focus for development during the pandemic as vulnerable patients shielded and cancelled routine hospital appointments.
Read more about the Itecho Health journey.
Investment Zone boosts Leeds’ innovation ambitions and vision
The investment in digital and healthtech will accelerate plans for the Leeds Innovation Arc, kickstarting the development of the Innovation Village on the Leeds General Infirmary site with the refurbishment of the Old Medical School to create a healthtech innovation hub.