Andy Burnham, the Mayor of Greater Manchester, has said he wants to form a “tighter partnership” with Microsoft to encourage more young people to learn digital skills.
The former Shadow Home Secretary told Microsoft employees at a healthcare event in the city that giving youngsters the chance to learn about technology would offer them more opportunities in later life.
He said Microsoft could help drive awareness and excitement for digital skills.
“Technology can help tackle social issues, it can give people better opportunities,” he said. “What’s a smart city? It’s about opportunities. I want a tighter partnership with Microsoft; they can drive excitement for digital skills.”
Earlier this year, Microsoft launched a programme to teach digital skills to people across the UK to ensure the country remains one of the global leaders in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and other next-generation technologies.
During a visit to the Microsoft stand at the Health and Care Innovation Expo at the Manchester Central Convention Complex, Burnham said he was also keen to look into how technology such as machine learning and big data could be used to identify children who were at risk of falling behind in the education system.
He added that using technology could enable a “360-degree view” of every student to ensure they get the education that was right for them.
The Mayor, who was elected in May, was shown a demo of KenSci, a machine learning platform for predicting population health risks and disease progression that runs on the Microsoft Azure Cloud Platform. This sparked a discussion on how the application could be used to improve the health and educational development of children.
Burnham also tried HoloLens, the company’s mixed-reality headset, which has been used by organisations such as NASA, Audi and Saab to improve how their staff work.
Rather than place users in a fully computer-generated world, as virtual reality does, HoloLens allows users to place 3D digital models in the room alongside them. As the Windows-10-based product does not have wires or external cameras, or require a phone or PC connection, users can walk around the objects they create and interact with them using gestures, gaze and voice.
Looking at a digital model of the human body while wearing the headset, Burnham said the technology was “truly amazing”. “You can see every bone and every muscle,” he added.
The Health and Care Innovation Expo aims to “help leaders in the NHS, local authorities and beyond to work together” to improve the healthcare system. Speakers across the two-day event included Simon Stevens, Chief Executive of NHS England; Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health; and Professor Jane Cummings, Chief Nursing Officer at NHS England.
The event also looks at how technology can be used to improve health and care services.
Dr Ankur Teredesai, co-founder of KenSci (above), gave a talk on using predictive analytics to transform healthcare and care delivery. His company uses data to predict a person’s future health and wellbeing needs as well as disease progression, and is being used to cut costs and improve experiences and clinical outcomes for 17 million people.
“We’re developing solutions that help doctors, nurses and others across the care system identify patients who will get sick, when they’ll get sick, how sick they’ll get, and what can be done to improve their health or help them avoid getting sick in the first place,” he said.
Teredesai and his team of doctors and data scientists use Microsoft Azure and its machine learning programs to study genetics, demographics, income, living situation, childhood illnesses and even the patient’s postal code to help reduce the risk and cost of healthcare.
PatientSource joined Microsoft on its stand at the Manchester event, which was attended by some of the UK’s leading medical and technology companies.
Doctors at PatientSource (above) have developed an electronic patient record for staff on the frontline. Doctors and nurses can use a tablet or other mobile device to look at detailed case notes, record a patient’s vital signs, prescribe medication, view test results, discharge patients and report incidents, quickly and easily in one program.
Dr Philip Ashworth, a co-founder at PatientSource, said the solution, which runs on Azure, was allowing hospital staff to work more efficiently, which in turn improves patient care.
“Our platform is about giving clinicians the right data, in the right place, at the right time, in an easy-to-use way, and Azure ensures that information is not accessible by anyone except to the people who need it.”
By listening to medical professionals, PatientSource has developed a system that was learned by staff at James Paget Hospital, in Great Yarmouth, in around 30 minutes.
“We live in a generation of social media clinicians,” Ashworth said. “They are used to using online services that are really easy to use; but then they go to work and find their trust has paid millions of pounds for an electronic system that’s a pain to use. We have used modern technology and modern ways of building interfaces to break down that barrier and give them something that makes sense to them. We can deliver a low-cost solution to trusts that benefits patients.”
Another Microsoft partner at the event was Virtualware, which uses Microsoft’s Kinect device to provide professional rehabilitation for stroke and multiple sclerosis patients in their homes using virtual reality. Patients stand in front of their television and copy the exercises being performed by a computer-generated physiotherapist.
“There is a real issue with access to personalised therapy,” said Owen O’Neil, who works in Business and Product Development at Virtualware. “At the moment, the therapy that’s most accessible to people is one that’s written down on a piece of paper and they take it home. Only around 30% of patients who are given pen and paper exercises complete them as prescribed. We wanted to make an accessible, fun, rehabilitation platform that can tackle this issue.
“We were really interested in the Kinect camera, which enabled us to develop extremely sophisticated motion-capture software for clinics.”
Virtualware has developed three modules – assessment, exercise and “exergames”.
The assessment function measures a person’s range of movement in their impaired limb and provides feedback on the proper trajectory of the movement. The exercise module features a virtual coach and focuses on increasing the amount of therapeutic repetitions designed to build up strength in a specific part of the body. Exergames incorporates exercises into videogames, enhancing the patient’s motivation to engage and continue rehabilitation activities.
“Unlike a normal videogame, where the game mechanics are designed around story and objectives, the exergames are designed to support higher volumes of exercise repetitions, leading to better recovery outcomes,” O’Neil said. “You can choose which body part to focus on and where targets, which have to be hit, appear; so if someone has a limited range of motion, they can choose to only have targets in a certain area. If the therapist only wants them working on one limb, they can do that as well. We have 16 different games for all sorts of things – lower limbs, upper body, balance.
As a certified medical device manufacturer, Virtualware offers its solution to hospitals, physiotherapists, private groups and early supported discharge community teams. It’s designed to assist those with acquired brain injuries such as stroke and multiple sclerosis. The system aims to increase access to therapy in the home and in the clinic as an additional method of improving care.
“We’ve designed the modules to be mixed and matched. A clinician might set the system up to allow the patient to play exergames for half an hour, then carry out an assessment, and then do 50 leg raises. The idea is that they are both increasing the amount of therapy relative to other methods and, perhaps more importantly, doing the hard work needed to recover.
“We have a big, flexible platform, designed by clinicians, and we are constantly working with them to develop it.”