A new epilepsy consortium believes technology could improve patient treatment and reduce NHS costs by £250 million a 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% 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.
This is what myCareCentric Epilepsy consortium – funded by Innovate UK and comprised of Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Kent, System C & Graphnet Care Alliance and Shearwater Systems – is hoping to do by equipping people with the ability to self-manage their condition. 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.
“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,” says Suzy Foster, Director of Health at Microsoft UK.
Since launch 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 NHS Foundation Trust. “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.”
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 useful in detecting seizures and improving patient outcomes.
“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,” says Dr Jon Shaw, Director of Clinical Strategy at System C & Graphnet Care Alliance, explaining that this is 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.
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.
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
Alice Bonasio is a VR Consultant and Tech Trends’ Editor in Chief. She also regularly writes for Fast Company, Ars Technica, Quartz, Wired and others. Connect with her on LinkedIn and follow @alicebonasio on Twitter.