Digital innovations tested to support vulnerable people during COVID-19 outbreak

People who may be particularly vulnerable or isolated during the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, including new parents, the homeless, unpaid carers, young people and cancer patients, could soon benefit from a range of innovative digital solutions selected as part of the TechForce19 challenge.

woman using smartphone in bed
Photo by Retha Ferguson on Pexels.com

Today, NHSX, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Ministry for Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) have announced 18 innovative digital solutions being awarded up to £25,000 under the TechForce19 challenge.

The funding for each project will be used to develop new ways to support vulnerable people who need to stay at home or need other help in the community for extended periods of time.

More than 1,600 innovations submitted bids in response to the challenge and successful projects include:

  • Feebris for the most vulnerable who are isolating – an app to help carers identify health risks and deterioration within elderly communities
  • Neurolove.org to support young people with mental health – a platform providing a friendly ear and human support for young people to help them to keep virtually social and safe online
  • Peppy for parents – helping parents-to-be and new parents remotely access trusted, convenient advice from perinatal and mental health issues
  • Vinehealth for cancer patients – a mobile app to support cancer patients during treatment and easily track and understand their care, including their symptoms, side effects, appointments and medications
  • Beam for the homeless population – a digital platform to support the homeless by taking referrals from local authorities and homeless charities, to ensure goods are funded, delivered and documented

Minister for Care Helen Whately said: “This is a hugely challenging time for everyone but for some it’s especially hard. Some people find themselves particularly isolated by social distancing – so we want to make sure they have the support they need at their fingertips.

“Technology has already proven to be a powerful tool in our response to this pandemic, keeping us connected in ways we could not have imagined even a few years ago.

“These innovative projects will offer fresh hope and vital support to some of the people who need it most and I’m very excited to see how they progress.”

Iain O’Neil, NHSX Director of Digital Transformation, said: “The TechForce19 challenge has harnessed some of the incredible talent we have in our tech sector, to help the most vulnerable and many of the problems created by isolation lend themselves to digital solutions – we hope this process will help people take advantage of the potential that digital technology offers.

“The 18 companies we are announcing today have the potential to help a number of the key affected groups during Covid-19, including young parents, the elderly at home, and the homeless, as well as giving people tools to look after their own mental health during isolation.”

The successful solutions will now receive funding to rapidly test their product to meet specific COVID-19 related needs.

This testing phase will last for 2 to 3 weeks and be followed by an assessment to better understand the potential and scope for accelerated deployment at scale, based on evidence.

NHSX has been working with partners PUBLIC and the AHSN Network to run the fast-track competition for innovators, creating a pool of technologies that have the potential to be rapidly scaled regionally and nationally.

Each prospective technology must have the capability to operate on a standalone basis without the need to be integrated with existing health or care systems.

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