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WMG leads Institute of Digital Healthcare

A new £4 million partnership between NHS West Midlands and The University of Warwick will bring West Midlands patients and health professionals the benefits of the very latest research into digital medicine.

The new partnership agreement with NHS West Midlands will provide just under £2.5 million in funding over five years for the Institute of Digital Healthcare. It will be based in the University of Warwick’s new £12.5 million digital lab which was opened this summer by Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Institute will bring together technologists from the University of Warwick’s innovation group WMG (specialists in devising and implementing new technology for immediate use in both the public and private sector), leading researchers from Warwick Medical School, and key staff from NHS West Midlands.The new Institute of Digital Healthcare will seek to apply the latest digital technology to assist the training of West Midlands health professionals, and the treatment and support of local patients. This will put the West Midlands at the forefront of many digital health technologies that will attract national interest. Some of these technologies include:

Serious Games: Computer games can produce startlingly detailed fantasy worlds but the same technology is increasingly being used by industry and the public sectors to model our own world. The technology promises to open a range of health care opportunities from new ways to engage with young patients with childhood obesity to modelling the best way to operate an emergency care facility.

Digital Technologies To Assist Patients and Carers: The researchers will look at digital technologies such as additional "remote monitoring" with the aim of taking some of the strain and worry from long term carers of patients

On-Line Health Tools For The Public: The University of Warwick researchers and NHS West Midlands will examine current health-related internet use and will to look to see how it can be developed to create an electronic network for carers of people with dementia, develop online group therapy tools, and create a virtual clinic for people with diabetes.

Virtually Reality Medical Training: The Institute will exploit the very latest virtual reality techniques to develop training simulations to help healthcare professionals quite literally get to grips with the latest technology. It will include team learning scenarios where the risks are only to virtual patients but the virtual environment is so detailed that it incorporates visuals, sound, smell and even temperature.

Professor Yvonne Carter Dean of Warwick Medical School said: "The interim report of last year’s Darzi Review set out a vision for a world class NHS that is fair, personal, effective and safe. Digital technology will be crucial to achieving those aims. This Institute of Digital Healthcare will place the NHS West Midlands in the forefront of research in this field" NHS West Midlands Chief Executive, Peter Shanahan said: "I am delighted that the NHS in the West Midlands is part of this pioneering partnership which will enable it to transfer the learning from the digital age to the health sector. It is clear that e-Health and innovation will have a key role to play in driving up standards in the modern NHS. This collaboration will strengthen the region's capacity to translate scientific advances into improved public health and patient care.

Through this partnership we will be able to explore the possible solutions to some of the public health challenges that we currently face, such as childhood obesity and treatment of patients with long term conditions but also how we deliver the future workforce of the NHS".

WMG Director Professor Lord Kumar Bhattacharyya said: "The Institute of Digital Healthcare will build on WMG’s and the Medical Schools’ already significant experience in digital health technologies. In WMG we are already developing simulations to help hospital managers maximise the utilisation of costly healthcare equipment, and we are examining how input from patients can help create the best sound environment for them on a ward."