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Northern Ireland Executive supports medicine tech projects



Health department backs research for technology to support patients in managing medication

A group of projects to develop technology to support people in taking prescribed medicine has got under way with the support of Northern Ireland's Department of Health, Social Service and Public Safety.

It said that six of the initial 32 projects on medicine optimisation under the Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) have been selected in a competition that began in March of last year. In January they went into phase one of development, which is aimed at proving the scientific, technical and commercial feasibility of the solutions and will last until the end of June.

Phase two, due to begin later this year, will involve the development of defined prototypes of the proposals that are identified as viable.

Cathy Harrison, senior principal pharmaceutical officer for the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety, told UKAuthority that it hopes two or three of the projects will prove strong enough to go to tender.

"The idea is that the NHS could use the experience to go out to tender for a solution or a number of solutions," she said. "Companies in phase two could apply with everyone else to develop them for market.

"We believe this works better than if a committee of people had just developed a specification."

She said it is not possible to forecast when any of the solutions could become available for use.

The projects are aimed at helping patients to manage their medication better. Jim Wells, Northern Ireland's health minister, said there is evidence that many people do not take their medicines as prescribed and this creates further pressure on the health service. Also, about one in 15 unplanned admissions to hospital are associated with medicines.

"There are limited solutions available at this time to help people to take their medicines as prescribed and I welcome the development of creative and technological solutions to support people to gain the best from their treatment," he said.

The six projects are:

  • Gamification of Medicine Management from AppAttic;
  • Smart MDS Medication Monitoring from Cairn Solutions;
  • Medication, Adherence, Patient Profiling & Safety System from Intelligent Fingerprinting;
  • A primary care medication adherence assessment tool from Kainos Software;
  • Advanced Medication Adherence Intervention Methods in Bipolar Disorder from Mednet Consulting;
  • SmartAir for enhancing compliance of inhaled medication from SmartAir Medical.

The competition has been developed by Northern Ireland's Department of Health Social Services and Public Safety in partnership with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment, and Innovate UK with support from the Health and Social Care Board and Invest NI.

It is part of the Northern Ireland Executive's Innovation Strategy, which is aimed at encouraging the role of small businesses in developing new solutions for public services. Enterprise Minister Arlene Foster said she wants to see more healthcare projects developed through the SBRI.

Image: Joonas Suominen, Creative Commons through Wikimedia

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