International Translational Centre Announces Winners of Seed Funding Competition
The International Centre for Translational Digital Health (ITC) has awarded funds for four seed projects and one student visit follow our recent seed funding competition. The aim of this funding is to support collaborative research proposals between the University of Manchester (UoM) and the University of Toronto (UofT).
Congratulations to the following PIs and their teams:
- Dr Brian McMillan (UoM), Dr Carolyn Steele Gray (UofT): A comparison of policy and practice relating to patient online health records access in England and Ontario: Learning from each other
- Prof Panos Constantinides (UoM), Dr Quynh Pham (UofT): A commercialization pipeline to spread and sustain Canadian digital therapeutics in the UK
- Dr Allison Crawford (UofT), Dr Sabine van der Veer (UoM): Identifying and addressing digital health equity barriers – applying the Health Equity Impact Assessment tool to optimise the Manchester Digital Pain Manikin
- Prof Goran Nenadic (UoM), Prof Therese Stukel (UofT): Configurable federated de-identification of clinical free-text data to unlock the research potential of unstructured patient data to improve health and treatment outcomes
The student visits we funded were from Dr Alex Casson (UoM) and Dr Milad Lankarany (UofT) whose students will work together to advance their existing collaboration. The visits will specifically investigate why the signal quality differs on the flexible devices for wearable electrophysiology monitoring used in Toronto compared to those used in Manchester.
JTC Programme Manager, Charlie Stockton-Powdrell, said: “It was a competitive call and I would like to thank everyone who took the time to complete and submit an application, and also for reaching out and connecting with colleagues from our partner institutions. I hope there will be further successful collaborative working relationships that will blossom.”
“Many congratulations to our successful applicants and we look forward to seeing how your projects and collaborations develop in the coming months.”
To find out more about each project, please see the lay summaries below.
|A comparison of policy and practice relating to patient online health records access in England and Ontario: Learning from each other|
Research has shown benefits (for both patients and clinicians) of patients being able to access their medical record. In England, the 2019/20 General Practitioner (GP or Family Physician) contract stated that all patients registering with a practice should be offered full online access to their digital health record, showing all entries added from the date they registered. In 2022, NHS England announced that full access to new entries (including free text notes made by clinicians) would become the default for patients registered with one of the online access services. In Ontario, patients do not currently have digital access to their full Electronic Medical Record (EMR) in primary care settings, but the Ministry of Health have stated that providing patients such access is a priority. This study will compare the policies and practices of England and Ontario and highlight how we might learn from each other to improve current practice.
|A commercialization pipeline to spread and sustain Canadian digital therapeutics in the UK|
The emergence of digital therapeutics (DTx) as a new class of digital health intervention is significant for Canada and the UK. University of Toronto and University of Manchester are home to two of the world’s few academic centres equipped to build these software-driven, evidence- based interventions and support their claims to prevent, manage, and treat chronic disease. This project reflects a joint ambition to build a commercialization pipeline that can support the spread of a DTx developed by one institution to the other’s jurisdiction. We will conduct formative service design and market research to launch our Medly heart failure DTx and nurse-led heart failure management program in the UK. Through this work, we will set the foundation for Medly to be sustained as standard of care within the Manchester University NHS Foundation Trust.
|Identifying and addressing digital health equity barriers – applying the Health Equity Impact Assessment tool to optimise the Manchester Digital Pain Manikin|
The University of Manchester developed the Manchester Digital Pain Manikin, a smartphone-based tool to support pain self-reporting. Recently, they found that some Manikin target users may be at risk of equity barriers. This means they are less likely to use and benefit from the Manikin. However, it is unclear what these barriers are and how to mitigate them.
We will organise three focus groups with Manikin target users and other stakeholders to better understand the health equity impact of the Manikin. For this, we will use the Health Equity Impact Assessment Digital Health supplement (HEIA-DH), developed by the University of Toronto. The HEIA-DH describes how to systematically identify equity barriers and mitigation strategies when designing and implementing digital technology.
The project will inform further development of the Manikin and the HEIA- DH. It will also show how we can use the HEIA-DH in future Manchester- Toronto projects to improve digital health equity.
|Configurable federated de-identification of clinical free-text data to unlock the research potential of unstructured patient data to improve health and treatment outcomes|
Clinical letters, hospital notes, and other free-text data in healthcare are a rich source of information that can be used to improve health and treatment outcomes. Given its sensitivity, a first step in using such data to support research is to reduce the risk of accessing sensitive personal information presented in the narrative form. For large-scale privacy-sensitive datasets, an automated approach is the only practical option. This requires a balanced approach that removes sensitive information (e.g. names, age, etc.) that is private and not needed for research, but still preserves clinical utility of the data by not removing variables that are crucial for research.
This project, a collaboration between the universities of Manchester, Toronto and Melbourne, will identify the requirements and provide an initial design for a configurable framework for tailoring de-identification software depending on the type of clinical narrative and research questions. It is an enabler that will unlock the research potential of free-text data to improve health and treatment outcomes.