Aberdeen academic chosen to tackle major UK health challenges

Aberdeen academic chosen to tackle major UK health challenges

A University of Aberdeen researcher is set to take part in a new programme that aims to find innovative digital solutions to some of the biggest health and care challenges currently facing society.

The current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted health and wellbeing inequalities but, if applied thoughtfully, digital technologies could widen access, improve patient safety and clinical outcomes, improve efficiency and reduce carbon footprint.

Academic GP Rosalind Adam was selected from more than 300 applicants to attend the first UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) digital health sandpit event next month. The first in a series of three, its theme is novel digital technologies for improved self-monitoring and health management.

Teams of 25-30 interdisciplinary participants from across the UK will be tasked with coming up with solutions on how identified ‘challenges’ may be addressed, with the aim of developing their ideas into research projects.

Successful projects should either propose a new approach to self-monitoring of conditions, or identify novel digital technologies that will ultimately enable the public to better manage their health in their own homes and in the community, therefore reducing the time that the public spends engaged with the traditional healthcare delivery system.

Dr Adam, whose research interests are cancer in primary care, pain/symptom management, and digital health, said that while people are living longer with multiple chronic health conditions, deprived individuals die younger than those from affluent areas and experience multimorbidity earlier.

She explained: “Those who most need health care are least likely to receive it, and the current Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted these inequalities. We know that mental illness often co-exists with other physical health problems and that climate change will also widen health inequalities, posing a major threat to our health and wellbeing.

“Digital technologies are increasingly being used to tackle health and social care challenges – they can widen access, improve patient safety and clinical outcomes, improve efficiency and reduce carbon footprint.

“For example, more than a million people in Scotland have downloaded the Covid-19 test and protect app, the NHS quickly adopted on-line video consulting to help reduce the spread of the virus and many more of us are using apps to monitor physical activity levels to help with weight loss and healthier lifestyles. In cancer screening, it is likely that artificial intelligence algorithms will help radiologists identify early breast cancers.”

Dr Adam applied to the digital health sandpit to meet individuals from different disciplines and backgrounds who share her passion for high quality digital health research.

“The team I will be working with will have been chosen to bring range and depth to the challenges, approaching problems very differently. I would like my own thoughts and ideas to be challenged by others. I hope and expect to find aspects of the sandpit difficult – the problems facing our health and social care systems, and their potential solutions, are not simple.”

The sandpit will run virtually over three weeks in November. The funding of each project is expected to be in the region of £400,000.