Liverpool addresses healthcare inequalities with Livernerds Lab testbed

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Liverpool has some of the worst health inequalities in the UK, which it is trying to address by developing one of the country’s leading healthtech ecosystems.

The city has the UK's only 5G testbed dedicated to health and social care and is home to the Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust, one of the inaugural members of the Global Digital Exemplar (GDE) scheme, a government project to advance digital healthcare.

One of the key objectives of the GDE programme is to develop healthcare technology for the home that will help reduce hospital stays.

Royal Liverpool and Broadgreen University Hospitals NHS Trust (RLB) wanted to design these tools alongside the patients who would use them by developing a testing environment powered by its unique 5G capacity. This led the Trust to create the Livernerds Lab, the first digital testing space of its kind in the NHS.

The lab consists of a smart room modelled on the rooms being built at the new Royal Liverpool Hospital, and a smart house with a bedroom, bathroom, living room and kitchen. Each of these is fitted with digital equipment including sensor technology, telehealth and virtual reality that help clinical staff remotely monitor a patient’s heart rate, blood pressure, falls and other indicators of changes to their health.

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RLB CIO David Walliker told Computerworld UK that the facility will help the NHS safely transition patients from a hospital bed to their own home.

“We need to put technologies into that room to identify, if you’ve fallen, if your machine has started beeping, and to take your vital signs,” he said. “We'll still do nurse observation but that technology is necessary.”

The short-term objective is to develop technology for the new £335m, 646-bed Royal Liverpool Hospital, the opening of which has been severely delayed by the collapse of construction giant Carillion. In the long-term, Livernerds will be used to develop assisted living smart home technology that can reduce the strain on NHS resources and improve healthcare outcomes across the country.

Developing a healthtech ecosystem in Liverpool

Livernerds aims to harness Liverpool’s existing healthtech strengths and develop its capabilities for the future. The city is already the largest provider of telehealth in Europe, which makes it a natural testbed for remote healthcare monitoring.

Liverpool’s community service currently works with global telehealth provider Docabo to provide patients with a “telemedicine in a box” service that allows the NHS to discharge patients and monitor them remotely. Livernerds is working with the company to expand that product offering.

Livernereds is also working with local SMEs such as Aquarate, which has developed an automated fluid intake and outake monitoring system that uses sensors on cups and toilets to identify risk of hydration-related illness.

“We've got six or seven partners working at the moment on different sensor-based projects,” said Walliker. “The holy grail to us is how we can connect that to our version of a home hub and link that securely back into the medical records via 5G.”

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Walliker believes Livernerds will encourage innovation in the NHS, which can be stifled by regulatory requirements and financial constraints, particularly for startups who can’t match the R&D funding of larger competitors and need an affordable testbed to prove their technology works.

He also hopes to help create a local healthtech ecosystem that will support the city council’s ‘Health is Wealth’ campaign, a project predicated on the belief that a wealthy society will lead to improved health outcomes

“If we invest in the SMEs and in the startup, then they'll employ locally, which means we're increasing the wealth in Liverpool, and that will indirectly help start bridging some of those health inequality gaps.”

Copyright © 2019 IDG Communications, Inc.

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