Tuesday, 11 January 2022

New publication in BMJ Journals – Mobile technology and delegated work in specialist community services: the EnComPaSS Integration project

CATCH members Dr Steven Ariss and Professor Sue Mawson, along with colleagues from St Luke's Hospice and Liverpool John Moores University, have a new study published in BMJ Journals, Supportive and Palliative Care. This study demonstrated that digital health technology, designed for remote working, can support flexible, scalable models of community health services, involving a more junior workforce. Concurrent improvements in patient experience and reduced use of emergency services were observed.


The current UK healthcare workforce crisis is particularly severe in community services. A key limitation with traditional service-delivery models is the reliance on practitioners with levels of training and experience to enable them to operate independently. This paper describes a real-world evaluation of the implementation of digital health technology designed to provide remote, real-time support and task delegation in community palliative care services. It explores the ability of technology to support sustainable community workforce models and reports on key indicators of quality and efficiency.

The study was a mixed-methods, theory-driven evaluation, incorporating interviews, observations and analysis of routine data. The focus of this paper is the reporting of findings from pre–post implementation comparison and interrupted time series analysis. Data include community hospice service visits, hospital use by hospice patients and patient reported experiences.

The digital health intervention allowed the service to include a more junior workforce requiring fewer joint visits. No negative changes in hospitalisation were observed and patients reported experiences improved. Changes in hospital non-emergency bed days were inconclusive. However, emergency department admissions reduced significantly. The cost per hour for visits reduced from £16.71 to £16.23 and annual savings of £135,153 are estimated for reduced emergency admissions.

The evaluation demonstrates the value of digital innovation to support programmes of service redesign and begin to address the healthcare workforce crisis, while having a positive economic effect and indicating an improvement to patient experiences.

Please find the full article here.



Wednesday, 5 January 2022

Frontiers in Psychology, New Publication – Technology for Healthy Aging and Wellbeing: Co-producing Solutions

University of Sheffield colleague, Dr Matthew Bennion, has a new article published in Frontiers in Psychology and the publication follows on from research produced by the CATCH THAW (Technology for Healthy Ageing and Well-being) project.


Methods to facilitate co-production in mental health are important for engaging end users. As part of the Technology for Healthy Aging and Wellbeing (THAW) initiative two interactive co-production workshops were organised, to bring together older adults, health and social care professionals, non-governmental organizations, and researchers.

In the first workshop, two activities were used: Technology Interaction and Scavenger Hunt, to explore the potential for different stakeholders to discuss late life mental health and existing technology. In the second workshop, Vignettes were used, Scavenger Hunt, and Invention Test to examine how older adults and other stakeholders might co-produce solutions to support mental wellbeing in later life using new and emerging technologies.

In this paper, authors share the interactive materials and activities and consider their value for co-production. Overall, the interactive methods were successful in engaging stakeholders with a broad range of technologies to support mental health and wellbeing and in co-producing ideas for how they could be leveraged and incorporated into older people’s lives and support services. Researchers offer this example of using interactive methods to facilitate co-production to encourage greater involvement of older adults and other under-represented groups in co-producing mental health technologies and services.

Please find the full article here.



Wednesday, 8 December 2021

VocaTempo app included on the UNICEF App Catalogue

UNICEF has published its App Catalogue: a library of reliable disability-inclusive digital applications supporting children, adolescents, caregivers and front line workers. VocaTempo, the voice input augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app developed by CATCH and Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology Team working with Therapy Box Ltd, has been included in this catalogue.


The Unicef App Catalogue is a collection of apps developed by the public and private sector and assessed by Unicef for functionality, use by children, and accessibility. They have brought together a series of child-friendly and inclusive apps, including VocaTempo, to support children and their families.

VocaTempo is the world’s first voice input augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) app. It is designed for people with dysarthria and allows them to use voice commands to speak phrases. The catalogue says that ‘VocaTempo quickly learns to recognise your vocalisations – simply click to record your speech and save it. If you’re not happy with the recording you can review or re-record at any time. When you’ve recorded eight different recordings of each vocalisation you can use your speech to select phrases on screen. The more vocalisations you save the more phrases you are able to choose from and speak. VocaTempo also continually learns to improve its recognition of your voice. Each time you use the app to speak these recordings are saved and used to help VocaTempo recognise your speech in the future. You can also easily delete them or turn the continuous learning feature off.’

This app is featured in the UNICEF App Catalogue. It has been assessed by UNICEF for functionality, use by children and accessibility. This assessment does not constitute ongoing endorsement of the app content or assessment of cost.

For more details please visit www.unicef.org/appcatalogue



Wednesday, 24 November 2021

New publication: Non-invasive brain stimulation for treating neurogenic dysarthria; A systematic review

CATCH member, Dr Rebecca Palmer, and colleagues from The University of Sheffield have a published article in Annals of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine.



Although non-invasive central and peripheral stimulations are accruing support as promising treatments in different neurological conditions, their effects on dysarthria have not been systematically investigated.

The purpose of this review was to examine the evidence base of non-invasive stimulation for treating dysarthria, identify which stimulation parameters have the most potential for treatment and determine safety risks.

A systematic review with meta-analysis, when possible, involving publications indexed in MEDLINE, PsychINFO, EMBASE CINHAL the Linguistics and Language Behavioral Abstracts, Web of Science, Cochrane Register of Control Trials and two trial registries was completed. Articles were searched in December 2018 and updated in June 2021 using keywords related to brain and electrical stimulation, dysarthria and research design. Trials with randomised, cross-over or quasi-experimental designs; involving a control group; and investigating treatment of neurogenic dysarthria with non-invasive stimulation were included. Methodological quality was determined with the Cochrane’s Risk of Bias-2 tool.

Evidence for use of non-invasive brain stimulation in treating dysarthria remains inconclusive. Research trials that provide reliable and replicable findings are required.

Please find the full paper here.


Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Prevalence of Coverage of Assistive Technology in the WHO European Region: A Scoping Review

CATCH Professor, Luc de Witte, has participated in a large WHO meeting with Government representatives of more than 30 countries in the WHO EU region about Assistive Technology provision. A report Professor de Witte developed, along with PhD students Alice Spann and Sarah Abdi, about Assistive Technology provision in the 53 European countries formed a basis for this meeting. This is part of a global consultation process to obtain input for the Global Report on Assistive Technology the WHO is developing and of which Professor de Witte is one of the editors.


As of 2021, more than one billion people globally need assistive technology – a number that is set to double by 2050. Assistive technology can enable people living with restrictions in their day-to-day lives because of disability, noncommunicable diseases or ageing to be more independent. Broadly speaking, assistive technology can help to alleviate limitations related to the following six functional categories: hearing, vision, mobility, self-care, communication and cognition. In addition to convincing evidence of its cost-effectiveness, assistive technology has the potential to help
people living with restrictions due to ageing, disease or disability escape marginalization and become empowered to live the life they want to lead and improve their own quality of life and that of the people around them. Despite these benefits, it is estimated that only 10% of people needing assistive technology currently have access to it, even basic devices such as hearing aids or spectacles.

This scoping review aims to provide an overview of what is currently known about the prevalence and coverage of assistive technology in the WHO European Region. It is guided by the following research question: “What is the prevalence of needs, access and coverage of assistive technology and what are facilitators and barriers to access and coverage in the WHO European Region?”. Sixty-two publications included in this review were identified by searching the academic databases Scopus, CINAHL, MEDLINE, PsycINFO and Google Scholar. A further 41 publications were identified by national experts within the WHO European Region and the total number of publications included in the analysis was 103. Relevant information was extracted into a data chart and analysed, using a narrative approach.

Please find the full paper here. 



Thursday, 9 September 2021

Social Prescribing and Digital Technologies to improve Healthcare

 Social Prescribing promises to shake up the way we think about healthcare, while Digital Technologies have transformed the way we live and work. How can Social Prescribing and Digital Technologies be used to complement each other, and improve the health and wellbeing of all?


CATCH has recently been part of a project attempting to answer this question, led by the University of Oxford and with the involvement of Aspire, a charity supporting people in Oxfordshire experiencing homelessness and disadvantage, Blenheim Estate, with its famous Palace and grounds, and the world-renowned Eden Project. You can learn more about the project by watching this YouTube video we’ve recently commissioned.

The project has been sponsored by the Pitch-In (Promoting the Internet of Things via Collaboration between HEIs and Industry) programme, supported by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund.



Tuesday, 10 August 2021

New publication: CC4H Project Brochure

CATCH members have collaborated on the Circle of Care for Home: Community Stroke Services Sheffield Project Report and Volume 1 has now been published.



The launch of the Circle of Care for Home project was disrupted by Covid-19 and the pilot programme was put on pause for most of 2020. As a result, it was decided to split the project report into two volumes. This first volume contains a brief summary of the process undertaken so far including a series of co-design workshops, real world evaluation and research collaborators continue with an illustrated description of the proposed new service pathway.

For those who are new to Sensory Technologies eShift®, the technology underpinning this new
service, there is a summary to help explain how eShift® communicates with SystmOne. The logic model illustrates how they see Band 4 professional development as well as how their development can be tailored towards a number of efficiency savings.

The research team close this volume with an example of some of the resources that are being designed to help staff as they start working in this new way, as well as a description of the training that still needs to be delivered to staff before they can start. When restrictions are fully lifted and the project pilot can safely resume, the team will follow up with a second volume

Please read the full report here.



Thursday, 8 July 2021

Will innovation solve the problem of staff shortages in Health and Social Care?

CATCH Professor, Luc de Witte, contributes to an article about Healthcare Innovation and Technology published in the Dutch newspaper FD.




The title of the article was “Gaat innovatie het personeelstekort in de zord oplossen?” which translates to “Will innovation solve the problem of staff shortages in Health and Social Care?”

Professor de Witte’s key message is that technology-supported innovations in health and social care should not start from a need to make care more efficient, save costs or increase productivity, but from a need to improve the quality of care, the quality of the work of professionals, and the quality of life of clients/patients. If you start from there, efficiency and cost-effectiveness will follow, but that should not be the starting point.

Even stronger: the article argued that the fact that saving money is often the first criterion, it is one of the main reasons why so little has been achieved in this field the past 15 years, because innovations are being ‘killed’ before they really come to fruition.

    Please find the newspaper here.

    Wednesday, 9 June 2021

    CATCH researchers win funding from EPSRC to set up a research network in robotics for frailty

    Professor Mark Hawley and Professor Luc de Witte of CATCH are part of a team that has won funding from EPSRC to set up a new research network. Professor Praminda Caleb-Solly at UWE Bristol is leading a team of four other UK universities, Sheffield, Heriot Watt, Sheffield Hallam and Hertfordshire. Together they will establish a new network, EMERGENCE.

    The aim of the network is to create and catalyse a robotics for healthcare community.

    It will connect researchers, health and social care professionals, service users, regulators and policy makers, to affect the wider use of healthcare robots to support people living with frailty in the community.

    The EMERGENCE network will explore how robots can be used to support people to better self-manage the conditions that result from frailty.

    It will provide information and data to healthcare practitioners, enabling more timely interventions.

    This project is supported through a three-year £700,000 EPSRC NetworkPlus grant.

    Please read more about funded projects here.




    Thursday, 13 May 2021

    Pitch-In Digital Health Development Webinars

    During the first months of 2021 Kat Easton and Stephen Potter of CATCH, in collaboration with Mindwave Ventures, a digital development company, devised, developed and ran a series of a series of four webinars, each dealing with a different subject in the area of digital health innovation.


    Each webinar, of around 90 minutes’ duration, took the form of a free and, at times, frank discussion among a panel of experts selected to reflect the diversity of experiences and perspectives in the field. The insights and advice offered by the panel would be of value to both novices in digital health, unsure how to take forward their ground-breaking ideas, and seasoned developers, always alert for hints or tips to improve their practice. And the good news for anyone who missed the webinars first time round (or who would like to go back and refresh their memories) is that video recordings of the webinars are now available online. The development of the webinars was supported by Pitch-In: Promoting the Internet of Things via Collaboration between HEIs and Industry, sponsored by Research England’s Connecting Capability Fund.

    Webinar 1: “Discovery” of user needs in digital health: why bother?

    A fascinating and wide-ranging discussion about all aspects of requirements gathering and user engagement in digital health development.

    Webinar 2: Designing and developing digital health technologies: how to forge a partnership between academia, NHS and industry that really works

    A session full of useful insights into one of the most vital aspects of digital health development: how to forge successful collaborations.

    Webinar 3: Evidence and evaluation: how to design digital health tools with evaluation in mind and gather evidence of impact

    One of the most important aspects of digital health development: how to ensure that evidence-gathering and evaluation become integral parts of the process rather than mere afterthoughts or even forgotten entirely.

    Webinar 4: Onboarding and implementation: how to acquire and retain users of digital health technologies

    A session which addresses one of the challenges in digital health development which it is easy to neglect or underestimate: how to ensure that people use – and continue to use – your digital health tool.