Digital Health is one of Digital Jersey’s key strategic focuses based on the Island’s need to meet the challenges of an ageing demographic, as well as to construct a new hospital and support the emerging, but highly innovative, health tech sector.
Jersey is a perfect ‘sandbox’ for health innovation through its independent healthcare system, advanced telecommunications networks (GB Fibre, 4G, 5G, LoRa, NBIoT, CatM etc.) and the emergence of the Allen Lab – a dedicated research & development facility specialising in immersive medical techniques such as AR & VR.
With such aspirations at the forefront of our thinking, DJ led a delegation of local healthcare technology providers from its Health and Care Technology Group (HACT) to Odense in Denmark to the WHINN conference at the end of last year, with a view to learning about the latest industry trends and develop pments in one of the most advanced and progressive countries for healthcare in the world.
Accompanied by Andy Delaney from TSG Jersey, Paul Pigott from ESH Solutions and Stephen Kenealy from Zuri, this was also an opportunity to plant a flag in terms of Jersey’s ambitions to become a renowned testbed for digital health, and to present DJ’s members with the chance to develop relationships and potential future business propositions.
Dr Austin Gibbs of Allan Labs opened the event with his inspiring keynote on the use of immersive technology in health, and the advantages of using Jersey as a Sandbox. Plus, our impressive DJ Sandbox branded exhibition stand certainly put Jersey on the map – although we had to demonstrate via Google Maps to quite a few people exactly where we are!
One of the reasons Denmark has such a well-developed digital health sector is that they have long been renowned for their strong culture of partnerships between public and private sector. Hospitals and regions have an open-minded approach to cooperation with Danish and international companies – something that we are very much trying to encourage in Jersey in partnership with Health and Community Services.
Denmark has also long fostered a culture of user-driven innovation, ensuring shorter research and development cycles and promoting early adoption by patients and clinicians. Jersey can learn a great deal from this, and if we are to pursue our ambitions set out in the new Jersey Care Model, the ability to develop a strong Care in the Community model will depend on innovation and improving the use of technology by islanders. 94% of Danish citizens are active users of online services. Although Jersey can’t currently compete with adoption at this level. We have demonstrated with initiatives such as Pay by Phone that there is latent demand for digital applications.
The strong message coming from the Odense University Hospital team, was that innovation and partnership are essential to fulfilling Denmark’s ambitions of delivering personalised healthcare and precision medicine. Through using collaborations between hospital, businesses and academia, you are not only much more likely to create unique, practical solutions, but they offer the ability to fast track them into test and production thereby realising the benefits much faster than more traditional methods.
One of the challenges we face in Jersey is generating a sustainable means of funding research and development projects which will provide long-term benefits to the community. Denmark has a number of funds in place including the Research in Innovation Fund Denmark which actively supports Digital Health initiatives. It also has the luxury of having access to European funding initiatives such as the Horizon 2020 fund. Solving the conundrum of unlocking seed and R&D funding in Jersey is high on DJ’s wish-list. With public expenditure tightly controlled and a risk-averse attitude since the demise of the Jersey Innovation Fund, tapping into sources of private sector funding and independent donations will be critical to realising our ambitions – something we are hopeful of achieving in the not too distant future.
On a lighter note it was fantastic to attend the conference and listen to so many luminaries and to a degree, mad professors! The ‘Bits and Beer’ night was a highlight which took place in the Anarchist micro-brewery and consisted of a series of 10 minute ‘pitches’ from health tech entrepreneurs. Much of the content was demonstrating fantastic use-cases of drones and robots in medicine, although if pushed I’m not sure the team would remember all of them! It was also great to spend some time in a country where sustainable transport initiatives are already in full swing – we even used electric scooters, activated by an app, to commute between campuses which was great fun.
There are many things we can learn from Denmark from a digital health perspective, after all, they have been at the bleeding edge for many years now, however, the big take-away for us was that it’s difficult to be innovative in isolation and that if Jersey is to make strides in health tech whether from a public, private or community perspective – we need to start collaborating more! With the new hospital looming large on the horizon again, it is crucial that Jersey should take this forward in the new year.