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New technology could save NHS £250 million

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Kent, System C & Graphnet Care Alliance, Shearwater Systems and Microsoft are urging UK hospitals to consider new technology investments for vital improvements in patient care

Every year, on 26 March, people are asked to wear purple to support epilepsy awareness. ‘Purple Day’ focuses on raising awareness and empowering people with epilepsy sufferers with the knowledge and support they need to take control of their condition. Led by Epilepsy Action, this year, Purple Day is focused on raising awareness of the organisation's Epilepsy Action Helpline and raise funds to extend the opening hours so more calls can be answered each week– which is accredited by the NHS England "Information  Standard".

The myCareCentric Epilepsy consortium – a programme that is improving the treatment and quality of life of epilepsy sufferers – is urging hospitals to consider new technology investments to improve patient treatment and reduce cost pressures on the NHS by as much as £250 million per year.

Today, up to one in 100 people in the UK are believed to suffer from epilepsy, leading to three per cent of all accident and emergency visits and a total of 1.3 million days in hospital a year. It's a challenging condition to manage, particularly as existing medication only works for up to 70 per cent of sufferers. Of those who do not respond to medication, most are not suitable for invasive surgery, leaving many to continue to experience unpredictable and potentially life-threatening seizures. New research by Public Health England (PHE) has found a 70 per cent rise in the number of deaths of epilepsy patients between 2001 and 2014. PHE said there was a need to improve the clinical management of patients and make improvements to their wider health by tackling smoking, alcohol intake and poor diet.

The consortium, comprised of Poole Hospital, the University of Kent, System C & Graphnet Care Alliance and Shearwater Systems, as well as funding provided by Innovate UK, is already equipping people with the ability to self-manage their condition through the successful myCareCentric Epilepsy programme – and is seeking to extend this further to the general population. Running on Microsoft's cloud platform Azure, the programme provides patients with wearable technology that records vital health data to help clinicians build a tailored record of a patient's condition and seizure patterns. It has the potential to learn to classify seizures; to alert clinicians and carers in real-time so they can consult patients remotely; and provide essential lifestyle recommendations and drug prescriptions.

Since launching in 2016, myCareCentric Epilepsy has seen extremely positive results, with patients reporting a three-week reduction in response to seizure notification time, an 80 per cent cut in the time taken for medical professionals to respond to individuals and 30 per cent fewer admissions to hospital. The programme is empowering patients with the data they need to manage and monitor their condition, with an understanding of the severity of their seizures. As a result of this reduction in seizures, the consortium estimates that it could significantly reduce costs to the NHS in treating epilepsy patients by as much as £250 million, as well as slash the number of outpatient appointments, easing up time for patient and medical professionals alike.

“This approach has the potential to revolutionise the management of epilepsy by optimising the use of currently available treatments,” says Dr Rupert Page, chief clinical information officer and consultant neurologist at Poole Hospital. “Simultaneously, the powerful insights gained from the much deeper awareness of the myriad of lifestyle and other factors which affect seizure frequency may open up entirely new areas of research or treatment. The timely, expert support that can be provided through this solution helps patients manage their own condition and restores to them some of the control that the diagnosis of epilepsy all too often takes away.”

Dr Jon Shaw, director of clinical strategy at System C & Graphnet Care Alliance: “What’s really exciting about this is that it’s a ‘first of type’ project that combines smart wearables, patient-facing applications and enterprise communication technology, which gets messages out to the care team in real time. Putting data into secure Azure environments gives us huge scale and ability to leverage machine learning and artificial intelligence capabilities as services and ultimately to improve patient outcomes.”

In response to the success of the pilot, Microsoft and the consortium behind the solution recently launched a hack to gain insights into the data captured by the programme to help advance epilepsy treatments. Through this, they have confirmed relationships between lifestyle factors such as poor sleep and seizures, potentially enabling more accurate seizure prediction. Additionally, they  found that even capturing seemingly innocuous background information could be of use in reliably detecting seizures and thus help improve patient outcomes.

Now, the team are looking to expand the programme to more volunteers to empower them with the data they need to self-manage and understand epilepsy. They are also considering where it could drive new models of care for other conditions.

Suzy Foster, director of health at Microsoft UK, underlined “For Epilepsy sufferers life can often feel uncontrollable and unpredictable. myCareCentric is empowering patients to regain control of their treatment and their lives, helping them to significantly reduce the number of seizures they experience. As hospital Trusts across the UK continue to face growing pressures, it's more important than ever to invest in the right tools that focus on the patient as a person rather than the condition, delivering the most effective care and the best outcomes for patients and their families." 

Simon Wigglesworth, Epilepsy Action stated: "It's fantastic to see the success of the myCareCentric Epilepsy programme and the potential for life-changing outcomes it's driving for patients. Here at Epilepsy Action, we're committed to equipping people with epilepsy sufferers to manage their condition with confidence through our helpline, on line training and other support tools. and we It looks to us that believe myCareCentric Epilepsy could have has a vital role to play in supporting this mission.

Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Longfleet Road, Poole, Dorset BH15 2JB. Tel: 01202 665511

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