Conditions such as diabetes, hypertension, high cholesterol and chronic kidney disease are common in the UK — around 5.5 million adults in England have undiagnosed high blood pressure. These diseases are much easier to manage when detected early, as this enables individuals to make informed lifestyle choices which can help to slow down and even, in some cases, prevent their progression.
The reality, though, is that many people don’t find out that they’re living with these conditions until the time for early and straightforward interventions has passed. These conditions often don’t have symptoms until the issues have progressed; and so diagnosis relies on indicators being picked up by general practitioners, pharmacists or other health care professionals. That’s why Google Health is teaming up with the University of Sheffield to study whether smartphone sensors could help to tackle this issue.
The PUMAS Trial: An experiment with smartphone sensors
The sensors on smartphones can detect a range of different mechanical and electrical signals from the heart, and use AI to facilitate early detection of some common conditions.
Google Health and the University of Sheffield will pilot a feasibility study called PUMAS — Phones for Undetected Diabetes Mellitus And Hypertension Screening. This first-of-its-kind research will assess whether, in the future, these signals could provide a reliable, non-invasive alternative to current screening methods, facilitating early disease detection and free up valuable NHS resource. The opportunity here is huge: Optimal treatment for everyone known to have high blood pressure could avert up to 9,710 heart attacks and 14,500 strokes, saving the NHS up to £274 million.
PUMAS is the first of a series of studies set to take place in the South Yorkshire region that explore the role digital tools could play in improving patient health. We’ll also provide 500 Fitbit devices for a separate study on post-surgical rehabilitation. These experiments are part of a digital health partnership where we’ll invest in medical research, apprenticeships and digital skills training to uncover innovative ways that technology can drive change throughout the region and beyond.
Our investment in the South Yorkshire Digital Healthcare Hub
We’re also working with the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, a group of private and public sector organisations in the region, including: The University of Sheffield, Sheffield Hallam University, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority (SYMCA). This partnership is a powerful example of the technology, academic and healthcare sectors coming together to drive the development of innovative digital technologies to improve the way diseases are diagnosed and treated.
We believe technology can transform the nation’s health — but we need experts to support that effort. So, we’re also working with the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University to fund 500 Google Career Certificate scholarships. These qualifications will equip individuals and groups working or aspiring to work in digital health across the region with job-ready, entry-level qualifications in subjects such as cybersecurity, data analytics, project management, user experience and IT support.
Professor Tim Chico, Director of South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub; Professor Steven Haake, Director of Engagement at the Advanced Wellness Research Centre; Professor Liz Mossop, Vice Chancellor of Hallam Sheffield University; VP & Managing Director for Google UK and Ireland, Debbie Weinstein; Oliver Coppard, Mayor of South Yorkshire; Professor Koen Lamberts, Vice Chancellor of University of Sheffield; Dr Susan Thomas, Director of Google Health UK; Steven Pleasant, Healthy Lives Adviser for the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority
Funding for local digital skills opportunities
We’ll also work with the SYMCA Apprenticeships Hub to fund 30 digital apprenticeships for small businesses across the region. Our funding will enable small businesses across South Yorkshire to retain and develop employees, as well as expand, creating high-impact job opportunities in the region.
The South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority announced the collaboration today at a Google Digital Garage event at South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub based at Sheffield Hallam’s Advanced Wellbeing Research Centre (AWRC). At the event, more than 150 local business owners and individuals were given the opportunity to learn digital skills and take part in our recently-launched, AI-focused “New Fundamentals” free training series, which helps people and businesses gain practical skills and knowledge to capture the benefits of AI, whether it’s to save time, get a new job or grow their business.
We’re looking forward to seeing the positive impact that this investment will have on the lives of real people. The studies, scholarships and apprenticeships will unlock opportunities, creating a ripple effect that will benefit South Yorkshire and serve as a model for positive change across the UK.
VP & Managing Director for Google UK and Ireland, Debbie Weinstein delivering the keynote speech at the Google Digital Garage event.