Tech that helps epilepsy patients manage their condition ‘could save NHS £250m’

A pilot scheme that uses wearable technology and an app to help people with epilepsy manage their condition could save the NHS more than £250 million if it was rolled out across the UK, experts have claimed.

Around 50 people are currently enrolled in the programme, called myCareCentric Epilepsy, which is being run in Dorset by a consortium including Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust using Microsoft’s cloud technology.

An estimated 600,000 people in the UK – one in 131 – are believed to suffer from epilepsy, and around 87 new diagnoses are made every day. The condition directly and indirectly costs the NHS £2bn annually to treat, with epilepsy leading to 3% of all Accident and Emergency visits and a total of 1.3 million days in hospital a year.

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.

Healthcare experts running the Dorset pilot are looking at how lifestyles affect patients, and have revealed that a third of them are now seizure-free. There has also been 30% fewer admissions to hospital among those involved in the programme.

We are helping people with epilepsy take back control of their lives by empowering them to self-manage their condition,” said Ian Denley, Chief Executive of digital healthcare firm Shearwater Systems, which is part of the myCareCentric Epilepsy consortium. “This solution benefits everyone. Not only can patients be more independent, but healthcare teams can focus on helping people who need the most care.

“MyCareCentric is changing how epilepsy care is delivered, and we estimate that it could save the NHS more than £250m if it was rolled out across the UK.”

Patients in the myCareCentric Epilepsy pilot – which was co-funded by Innovate UK, the UK’s innovations agency – are given wearable technology, which they put around their wrist like a watch. The device records data such as sleep patterns, exercise, heart rate and temperature at regular intervals. Authorised clinicians can access this information as well as notes about seizures, which patients input into an app, and medical records to build up a picture of an individual’s condition. The patient can then be contacted remotely and their prescribed medication and lifestyle recommendations can be modified in real time.

Someone using the epilepsy app

Patients put information into an app

The team also ran a hack at University of Kent, which found a link between poor sleep and seizures, and discovered that diagnoses were more accurate if they introduced different forms of data, such as patient documents.

“We gained the ability to spot when someone had a seizure, and some people might not even know they’ve had one,” said Denley. “That data was sent to clinical teams in hospitals, who contacted the patient and said: ‘We think you’ve had a seizure, can you provide more information in the app’. As a result, we capture more information about the seizure itself, how the patient is feeling, what their sleep patterns are like and any complications. It’s a much richer data set.”

All the information from the pilot and hack is stored in Azure, the secure cloud platform run by Microsoft, which is supporting the Dorset scheme.

Suzy Foster, Director of Health at Microsoft UK, said: “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.”

The hope is that by helping individuals understand their specific symptoms they will be more likely to self-manage their epilepsy, giving them more independence and removing pressure from the NHS.

If a patient is rushed to hospital, an alert is automatically sent to a care team that has a complete overview of that person’s condition and can potentially save their life by helping with treatment.

Dr Jon Shaw, Director of Clinical Strategy at System C & Graphnet Care Alliance, said: “What’s really exciting about this is that it’s 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.”

The consortium – Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, the University of Kent, Shearwater Systems and System C & Graphnet Care Alliance – are hoping to expand the pilot to other areas of the country.