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SCC and South Warwickshire NHS Foundation Trust (SWFT) have launched a new Digital Innovation Hub during a virtual ceremony which saw Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock MP, formally open the facility at Stratford Hospital.

SCC, Europe’s biggest independent IT solutions provider, has partnered with the Trust, the only general acute and community provider in the West Midlands region to receive an ‘Outstanding’ rating by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), to create the Digital Innovation Hub and accelerate the digital delivery of care. Amid the ongoing coronavirus crisis, the hub provides clinicians with a real-world, co-creative facility that will accelerate the identification and development of digital care solutions.

The hub enables clinicians to perform on-going trials of new technologies alongside the existing care regime, to demonstrate practicality and improvement. Most notably, the hub will help significantly reduce hospital wait times and automate care management to ensure more people receive appropriate care quickly.

With the Trust having invested significantly in its digital transformation journey in recent years, it now faces the challenge of reducing the backlog of patients caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Technologies available in the hub range from state-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities, enabling better collaboration between clinicians within and outside of SWFT, to innovative new artificial intelligence (AI) solutions that could revolutionise care management and dramatically reduce backlogs.

On formally opening the Digital Innovation Hub, Matt Hancock MP, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, said: “This year has undoubtedly been one of the most challenging in the history of the NHS and I know that you have worked so hard to rise to this challenge. Not only have you risen to meet the challenge but the spirit of ingenuity and innovation that we’ve seen across the NHS has shown us just what else is possible when we bring health and technology together.

“South Warwickshire Foundation Trust’s reputation for delivering first class healthcare services is well earned; you’re rated as outstanding by the CQC, and I know how widely and well-regarded you are. But rather than rest on that I’m really proud of how you’ve continued to push forward and reach new heights in innovation. The Digital Innovation Hub we’re launching today is a great example of that – bringing the public and private sectors together to deliver better care and better outcomes and experiences for patients.

“I want to pay tribute to Glen Burley and his team, and to SCC, a great British technology company, for partnering with the NHS. This is the kind of work that will help us across the UK to be a world leader in digital healthcare, giving colleagues on the front line the tools to make the right decisions and free up staff so they can focus on what they do best: taking care of people and saving lives.”

Glen Burley, Chief Executive of SWFT, said: “The Digital Innovation Hub is a really exciting project and emphases how digital will help the NHS moving forward. We wanted to create a facility where our clinicians can sit alongside the very best technology companies to develop solutions to meet the healthcare needs of the population now and for years to come. For the first time our clinicians are able to highlight problems that they are facing, and together we will design technology solutions with the very best brains in the business. Rather than looking on the shelves of technology solutions and seeing if they meet the needs of our patients, our clinicians will be co-producing and co-designing solutions.”

Sir Peter Rigby, Founder and Executive Chairman of Rigby Group, said: “This is very novel approach that we’ve taken to work intimately with an NHS Trust. We have been a supplier of technology to the NHS over the years but have built a very special relationship here, where we’re working with the clinicians and the administrators of the Trust, along with our own technicians, to examine and develop established software opportunities and to industrialise them for the greater benefit of the wider NHS.”

The virtual opening ceremony saw senior stakeholders from across the NHS and technology vendors participate in a virtual discussion with Sir Peter Rigby and Glen Burley, also featuring technology demonstrations from clinicians who are already using the Digital Innovation Hub to improve the delivery of health services.

One such clinician who spoke at the event is Gurpal Toor, Consultant Ophthalmologist, who is exploring the use of AI technology to manage patient care alongside existing the care regime to prove it can be improved. The hub will enable Mr Toor and SWFT’s ophthalmology team to demonstrate how AI technology can guide patient management by automating the entire care journey for low-risk patients. This will reduce the requirement for manual diagnosis and in turn help clear the COVID-19 backlog, whilst identifying high-risk patients earlier and ultimately saving more people from losing their vision.

Mr Toor believes the opportunity exists to virtually eliminate reversible blindness caused by glaucoma, with technology identifying symptoms earlier and capable of seeing a much higher volume of patients.

Mr Toor added: “The opportunity is huge. Glaucoma is the most common cause of reversible sight loss in the UK because we are not able to pick patients up early enough, mainly because they are asymptomatic. If we create a screening program with the capacity to see higher volumes of patients, we will catch glaucoma much earlier and treat to preserve vision for longer. The power of AI is the next big innovation in healthcare. AI technology can help guide patient management and separate patients who require specialist care from those whose treatment can be automated.”

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