Connecting communities in strengthening the health IoT ecosystem in Oxfordshire

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< Project Overview >

Introduction

Our project was funded as a regional engagement exercise in the Oxford health IoT ecosystem. Our collaboration included partners from the Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences (Papoutsi, Jani, Reidy, A’Court, Jenkins, Kerr, and also Wherton, Hughes, Shaw, Greenhalgh, Powell) and the Nuffield Department of Population Health (Harrington) at the University of Oxford, together with TheHill, a health and care digital transformation catalyst, embedded in Oxford University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (Morys-Carter, Ramos). Additional cybersecurity expertise was provided by the Department of Computer Science at the University of Oxford. As part of the project we engaged with various innovation, clinical, academic and other stakeholders in the local IoT ecosystem. Details of this engagement are described in the sections below.

Project aims

Our aim was to develop a participatory approach to health IoT implementation and contribute to strengthening the Oxfordshire digital health ecosystem.

The work sought to improve our understanding of barriers to health IoT implementation and local digital health ecosystem development, such as infrastructural, organisational and connectivity challenges. We also assessed opportunities and challenges for greater community participation in the development of digital health and IoT solutions, potential for strengthening partnership synergy and improving strategic IoT utilisation, with a view to articulating a generalizable approach.

What was done?

Summary of activities

  • Digital health training for patient and public contributors.
  • 2 co-production meetings with patient and public contributors (helping to guide project design, especially in the Covid 19 context, and supporting interpretation of data).
  • Online survey to a) identify health IoT-related solutions in Oxfordshire (based in the region or looking to deploy their solution in the region), b) understand impacts from Covid-19 crisis and also any opportunities for more extended use of these solutions, c) potential for the ecosystem to provide support.
  • Desk-research and consultation with key stakeholders to map the local ecosystem, both in terms of structural support for IoT innovations, and in terms of identifying start-up and established companies operating in the region.
  • Empirical work: 18 interviews with 20 participants involved in the development, testing, implementation or spread of health IoT solutions in the region. This included clinicians and allied health professionals using or testing health IoT, representatives from established or start-up health IoT companies, and senior innovation leads from the local authority and other organisations described as innovation ‘catalysts’.
  • Online workshop on learning from ‘failure’ with range of speakers from different sectors to provide opportunities for learning and reflection through community building, driven by priorities identified in the empirical work.
  • Several informal discussions and exchanges with ecosystem stakeholders.
  • Consolidation and synthesis currently ongoing.

Results

  • Identified challenges and support priorities for health IoT innovation development and deployment in Oxfordshire.
  • Developed an overview of structural gaps and limitations in the local ecosystem.
  • Identified opportunities for ecosystem strengthening and collaboration, e.g. in extending beyond accelerator programmes.
  • Provided opportunities for regional engagement and collaboration in the ecosystem.
  • Developed an adaptation of the NASSS framework for IoT.
  • Consolidated implications for clinical practice using IoTs, especially in the area of monitoring cardiac conditions.

Impact

The aim of our project has been to increase regional engagement around health IoT. We believe we have raised the profile of IoT technologies with our work, e.g. as many of our patient and public contributors were not familiar with this area, but now feel better equipped to help shape discussions about IoT implementation and research going forward. We have also provided opportunities for exchange and collaboration in the local community. Our learning from this research will be fed back to local innovation organisations which are interested in taking our findings forward as part of their strategic plans. There are implications for clinical practice which we are feeding back through the networks we developed in this project.

Next steps

As above, journal publications in preparation, as well as a final event to discuss engagement with good value innovations and sustainability post-pandemic. A follow-on funding application is being considered, especially as we would like to continue our work with the networks of clinicians and practitioners we built through the project.

Lessons learned

Different members of the team contributed expertise from different disciplinary and professional backgrounds which enabled rich exchange, network building and learning.

The pandemic meant we had to significantly re-design the project and remain aware of how changes to the environment would continue to impact our work. We were hoping face-to-face interaction would become feasible during the course of the project but unfortunately this has not been the case. Had we known, we may have proposed a completely different design earlier on in the process.

Additional resources would have allowed staff to spend more time on the project and would have helped overcome delays due to Covid-19 and working from home in challenging circumstances during lockdown.

What has Pitch-In done for you?

It has been great to have the opportunity to connect with the Pitch-In community. Our project benefited from the input of the Pitch-In project leads and we hope to be able to continue working together.

Project Lead

Dr Chrysanthi Papoutsi – University of Oxford

 

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