Research 09.06.23

Innovative digital health hub aims to transform how patients in South Yorkshire are treated

A new £4 million digital healthcare hub to tackle healthcare inequalities is set to transform how patients are treated in South Yorkshire.

The South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, led by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, will drive the development of innovative digital technologies to improve the way diseases are treated and diagnosed by using cutting-edge research using data from smartphones, wearables, new sensors, combining this with NHS data and using artificial intelligence to develop new clinical tools.

The hub will bring together a range of partners, including the University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, GPs, mental health services, the Sheffield Integrated Care System in South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw, businesses and patient and public groups, to share knowledge, skills and build upon the existing regional strength in developing innovative digital health technologies.   

Sheffield is one of five hubs across the UK to be awarded part of £16.5 million from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) and the Health Ageing and Wellbeing and Tackling Infections UKRI Strategic Themes. The hubs will focus on four key healthcare challenges: 

-Antimicrobial Resistance
-Health and care outside hospital and disease prediction, diagnosis and intervention
-Tackling health inequalities by developing digital healthcare technologies to the point of use in the NHS
-Addressing the health needs of underserved communities

The South Yorkshire Digital Hub will cover a region of 1.4 million people affected by high levels of disease and health inequalities. The hub will respond to unmet needs of urban and rural populations which are shaped by significant health and social inequalities. 

It will also offer new opportunities for improving health and economic growth in the region through digital skills training and sharing, networking and knowledge exchange, connecting diverse stakeholders in digital health from academia, healthcare, industry, public and private organisations, and the wider public.

The hub will be based at the Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre at Sheffield Olympic Legacy Park and will offer specialist health training for researchers, clinicians, patients and the public, made freely available online.

Professor Tim Chico, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine from the University of Sheffield and Director of the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, said: “People in South Yorkshire are affected by widening health inequality and high levels of disease, including heart and lung disease, cancer and mental health issues. This investment in cutting-edge health technology research aims to tackle the issue by developing digital healthcare to use in the NHS and benefit patients in our region and beyond. 

“The hub will allow colleagues from healthcare, academia, business and patients to come together to drive pioneering digital health which will transform the way we treat and diagnose diseases and most critically improve health.”

Professor Steve Haake, Deputy Director of the Digital Health Hub, said: “The establishment of the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub is a fantastic opportunity for the region.

“Our vision is to develop digital health tools that incorporate information from daily life to help patients and healthcare professionals make the right decisions at the right time. The hub will support patients, clinicians, companies and the general public to design their own apps and tools and help them to be used successfully in the NHS.”

Oliver Coppard, Mayor of the South Yorkshire Combined Authority, said: “The Digital Health Hub will help advance our plans to address the health inequalities holding our region back. South Yorkshire being at the forefront of this work is a testament to the ever-increasing collaboration between the NHS, our Universities and our business community, and yet more evidence of the strength of our cutting-edge health and wellbeing sector. 

“As ever, South Yorkshire is rising to the challenges facing our region in a way that is truly world-leading.”

Professor Wendy Tindale, Scientific and Innovation Director at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, said: “Working collaboratively across South Yorkshire will help us identify and address needs which can be supported by digital technology. This will be grounded in the real world, taking real life issues and working jointly to make a difference for our patients and the healthcare system.

“The hub will also have a focus on training to ensure we make the best use of new digital technologies to improve patient pathways and patient quality of life. It will also partner with industry so we all have a laser focus on what will make a difference.”

The Digital Healthcare Hubs are part of a wider £36.5 million investment in healthcare technology from EPSRC.

Dr Kedar Pandya, Executive Director of Cross-Council Programmes of EPSRC, said: “The projects and hubs announced today will deliver a variety of innovative approaches to improve healthcare outcomes for patients. 

“This investment will support scientists and engineers who are transforming the way we treat and diagnose diseases by using the latest developments in robotics, computer modelling and imaging.”