High-tech language assessment points way to better future for disabled children

Technology first of its kind to incorporate eye gaze tracking, mouse pointers and switch scanning options into one package so that speech and language therapists can use these methods to accurately record a child’s receptive language level.

A NEW high tech computer-based speech and language assessment tool helping professionals accurately record the levels of understanding of children who have a physical disability could improve the outcomes of thousands of non-verbal children.

The Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) software has been designed in response to an audit which identified that speech and language therapists found it difficult to get an accurate picture of a child’s receptive language using current tests if the child had a physical disability and couldn’t speak or point to pictures to show what they could understand.

The technology has been developed by the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative (D4D), a specialist centre based in Sheffield, and Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology team in partnership with Jabbla, a Belgian technology company. D4D is hosted by Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and empowers patients to live more dignified, independent lives.

Incorporating eye gaze tracking, mouse pointers and switch scanning options, the software is the first assessment of its kind to combine all these features into a single software package so that speech and language therapists can use these methods to accurately record a child’s receptive language level.

Children with physical disability often use these methods for other computer programmes so by integrating these options into CARLA , the software aims to reduce the barriers these children face when being assessed. Estimates show that up to 6,200 children and young people in England need communication aids to make choices and create messages using pictures, symbols, words or letters that can be linked to an electronic voice.

According to the Office of the Communication Champion, providing an appropriate communication aid can save over £500K in a child’s lifetime, as well as enabling them to receive appropriate educational provision.

Simon Judge, joint communication aid project lead for D4D and senior clinical scientist from Barnsley Hospital’s Assistive Technology Team said: “We’re delighted to be launching this new assessment. Up until now, when a child cannot point to their answers, speech and language assessment tools have relied on the therapist’s interpretation of the child’s responses, but this system gives an objective record of these responses as the child can make their choices using eye gaze, head switches or mouse pointers.

“As a result of having a more accurate picture of these children’s ability to understand language, the software will make it easier for speech and language therapists to target their therapy at an appropriate level. This could make a significant difference in terms of their educational outcomes and ensuring the appropriate language support is put into place.”

The software, which has been designed for children with a physical disability, also has the potential to help children with sensory or attention difficulties and adults with communication disabilities such as those with learning difficulties, dementia or aphasia.

Currently speech and language therapists use a variety of published assessments in order to determine the comprehension of spoken language of children with physical disability. These assessments traditionally use drawings which the child points to in order to make a selection.

When a child can not point to the pictures because of a physical disability, therapists normally adapt them by adapting the pictures or layout, by using alternative pictures or objects or by trying to match what they see the child do in their natural environment to levels on the assessment. The adaptations made generally invalidate any standardised scores given by the assessment.

Physically disabled children may be unable to point to their answer and therefore the assessor often has to observe the child’s movements, body language or eye signals and interpret their responses. Clearly this is subjective and open to human error, so CARLA aims to provide objective results and reduce the need for human interpretation. Inaccurate results may mean some children are believed to understand parts of language, such as vocabulary, cognitive and linguistic concepts, when in fact they do not.

Alternatively the reverse may occur where the children may understand more than they have ever been able to demonstrate. These results may impact on the level of their educational work, their language therapy programme, their communication aid use and the expectations of those around them.

The software will initially be available for use by speech and language therapists and teachers.

For more information about the new Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) visit http://www.techcess.co.uk/.

Image: A screenshot from the Computerised Accessible Receptive Language Assessment (CARLA) software.

Two million for innovative solutions to help tackle kidney disease

SIX winners, announced today, will receive a share of over £2 million as part of a Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) competition aimed at developing cutting-edge technology solutions to help kidney patients.

The innovative competition is funded by the Department of Health and managed by the National Institute for Health Research Healthcare Technology Co-operative Devices for Dignity (D4D), and will give small businesses the opportunity to develop ideas and technologies that could prevent kidney disease, allow earlier diagnosis, and give patients with kidney failure greater independence, enabling treatment closer to home.

They will also play a key role in reducing the significant burden of treatments that individuals living with severe kidney disease often endure.

Over the next 12-24 months the six winners will develop solutions to address some of the most pressing issues in kidney care. These include prevention of acute kidney injury, a condition that is estimated to affect 4.9% of hospital patients and in severe cases can be associated with a 10-20% chance of death within one year.

Another team’s focus will be on the early identification of peritoneal infections, the commonest cause for hospitalisation of patients on peritoneal dialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is a technique used for patients with severe kidney disease that uses the patient’s own body tissues inside the abdominal cavity as a filter.

The significant ‘patient transport’ burden experienced by kidney dialysis patients will also be addressed with a radical new approach to delivering patient transport for kidney disease patients and the development of a new type of diagnostic and monitoring test allowing patients to manage their condition at home. This will enable kidney patients to be further supported and seen in the community, reducing the number of hospital visits required.

The development of a novel self-help web-based solution will also help patients better manage their condition and adhere to their medicines. The final team will develop a method of making transplantation with blood group incompatible donors more accessible.

Life Sciences Minister George Freeman said: “Competitions such as this help the development of cutting-edge technologies which will make a real difference to NHS kidney patients. The UK is fast becoming the world leader in 21st century bio-medicine and life science, driving innovation and supporting small businesses to grow.”

D4D Clinical Director Professor Wendy Tindale OBE said: “We are delighted to be partnering with the Department of Health to capitalise on the fantastic ideas and energy of the UK’s small business industry to devise and develop practical products and solutions that could make a real difference to the lives of thousands of kidney disease sufferers.

“D4D is specialist national centre, hosted in Sheffield and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, with a remit to empower patients with long-term illnesses to live more dignified and independent lives through the development of user-friendly technologies. We have used our extensive networks with the kidney community to ensure the competition addressed the needs of patients by seeking input from patients, clinicians, academics and industry.”

David Coyle, home haemodialysis patient and D4D renal patient lead said: “The quality of the ideas that are being developed is very impressive. It is particularly notable that the teams have engaged with patients at an early stage and this has significantly influenced the final design outcomes. I am confident that these new innovations will deliver real benefits to patients in the near future”.

The six winners are:

  • Patientrack, Somerset – automated information technology system to calculate the risk of acute kidney injury and to detect and alert clinical teams of acute kidney injury in patients so that they can quickly ensure the right team are providing the right care for these patients
  • 365 Response, Wakefield – a booking app for patient transport, a key factor for delays in haemodialysis treatment, haemodialysis, a medical procedure to remove fluid and waste products from the blood when the patient’s kidneys are no longer able to do so
  • Microsensor Ltd, Manchester is developing a point of care safety monitor to improve infection control for peritoneal dialysis patients (an alternative to haemodialysis)
  • IF Sensing Ltd, Manchester – a device allowing monitoring of kidney function at home using interstitial fluid rather than in hospital
  • NIRI, Leeds – a system to remove antibodies for patients due to have blood group incompatible transplants which can be used simultaneously with haemodialysis, reducing treatment time and time spent in hospital
  • Atlantis Healthcare, London – an online support programme using health-psychology based coping exercises to improve self-management in order to delay disease progression

D4D participates in the Medtec UK Healthcare Technologies 2015

MedtecUK is a focused event for medical device manufacturers and healthcare professionals in the UK to source healthcare technologies and innovation. The event is held in ExCeL London on 3rd and 4th of March 2015. The education programme is comprehensively split by medical discipline focussed on Cardiovascular, IVD, Drug Device Combinations and Orthopaedics. These run alongside healthcare business and strategy focussed on issues such as legislation, public involvement in innovation and quality control. Participants will have access to free conferences designed to assist with every stage of a product’s lifecycle.

Professor Wendy Tindale, Clinical Director at the NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC, chairs the patient-centric session at Medtec UK Healthcare Technologies 2015 on 4th March, and D4D is represented on the NIHR stand (HF5).

More information: http://www.medteceurope.com/uk

Quanta Fluid Solutions SC+ presented at the Annual Dialysis Conference in New Orleans

The development of a small, portable, user friendly haemodialysis machine would make short daily dialysis and nocturnal dialysis accessible to many more patients, and also enable patients to travel freely.

Quanta Fluid Solutions were invited to present the SC+ in a review of the exciting new developments in machines for home haemodialysis (HD) at the Annual Dialysis Conference in New Orleans earlier this month. The SC+ is intended to be small enough to use when travelling but capable of providing a wide range of treatment options when used in self-care units, or at home with a single-patient water purification system. Using standard concentrates and dialysers, it has the capability to carry out short or long sessions with no restriction on frequency. A travel option using bagged fluid is under development.

The SC+ is still undergoing clinical evaluations but should soon join the NxStage System One on the market. The System One led to a dramatic rise in the uptake of home HD in the USA, with patient numbers increasing from around 2000 to almost 8000 in the seven years after it was launched in 2005. Hopefully with the increased availability of portable, patient-focussed equipment, many more UK patients will be able to benefit from home HD.’

The NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC has provided clinical input to the development through the expertise and experience of the staff at the Leeds and Sheffield renal centres, who care for over 1000 dialysis patients, and patient involvement through the active kidney patient associations associated with the centres.

Image: Peter Hoyer from Quanta Fluid Solutions showing dialysis pioneer, Dr Zbylut Twardowski, how dialysate is prepared in the SC+ cartridge.

Quanta Fluid Solutions Ltd receives CE mark for SC+, its portable, cartridge-based haemodialysis system

Quanta Fluid Solutions Ltd, a pioneering developer of advanced haemodialysis systems, announces it has received a CE mark for SC+, its portable, cartridge-based haemodialysis system.

John E. Milad, CEO of Quanta Fluid Systems, has commented “this is an exciting time for Quanta. Obtaining CE mark for our portable, compact haemodialysis system SC+ has been a major milestone. The NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC has been an important supporter during our journey, particularly with the contributions of Elizabeth Lindley and a number of home haemodialysis patients from Leeds Teaching Hospital who provided invaluable assistance with usability assessments throughout development of the SC+.”

Read the full press release here (pdf download)

Quanta Fluid Solutions Ltd

Teddy leg bags set to make life more bearable for young children

A CUTE and simple teddy bear leg bag could revolutionise care for small babies and children, their parents and carers when urinary catheters need to be fitted due to surgery or health problems.

The child-friendly bags, developed by the National Institute for Health Research’s (NIHR) Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co- operative offer a far less unpleasant experience for young children and are imprinted with Mummy and Baby bear images.

They come in two small sizes (150ml and 250ml) and are much more comfortable and lighter for small children than typical adult sized bags (350ml to 1,000ml) – which often do not fit correctly around a child’s leg and can be uncomfortable as well as dragging on the catheter. This could cause discomfort if not anchored correctly. The bags are now being made available by Great Bear Healthcare Limited to healthcare organisations thanks to NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative, a flagship initiative set up by the Department of Health to develop new medical devices and technologies that improve treatment and quality of life for patients.

Shaped like a cuddly teddy bear, the newly designed bags come with accessorised fun, paw-printed straps, and aims to reduce the unpleasant experience young patients, their parents and carers often endure when necessary urinary catheters have to be fitted when young children are unable to control their bladder properly due to a health problem or after surgery.

The leg bags are usually worn by the child on a leg, and enable them to move around freely. They can also be worn all day long and offer an aesthetically pleasing alternative to conventional, medical-looking leg bags which are attached to a child’s legs when a catheter is placed in the bladder.

Incorporating a soft, smooth fabric backing which feels comfortable against the skin and allows the skin to breathe, both versions of the teddy leg bags can also be linked to a larger capacity “night bag”, which are used overnight and placed by the child’s bedside when in hospital or at home.

The product has been manufactured by Great Bear Healthcare Limited, who have over 100 years’ experience of designing and manufacturing products and accessories helping make life more comfortable for people with bladder problems.

The mummy and baby bear leg bags are designed to be used by newborns and young children.

Nicola Heron, programme director for the NIHR Devices for Dignity Healthcare Technology Co-operative, said: “Coming into hospital when you are a very young child can often be a very emotional and stressful time, both for the child and their parents or carers. Wearing a leg bag can be an uncomfortable and unpleasant experience, so we’re delighted that this fun, new look bag with a number of unique design features has been launched that will appeal to the young audience.

“The new bags look and feel a lot less medical, and one child who used to hide her bag behind her back because she was so ashamed of it says she wears it like a handbag because she’s so proud of it.”

Pippa Bowkett, marketing director for Great Bear Healthcare Limited, who was heavily involved in the development of the product, added: “There is always a stigma to wearing any bodily worn appliance and, for the very young, it is sometimes hard to accept that these types of appliances will be with them for the short and/or long term. Great Bear is passionate about improving the quality of life for those who use urinary drainage bags and we saw an opportunity for a niche product that could really make such an experience easier for both the child and their respective parents/guardians. We are delighted to bring this product to market with the help of the NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC.”

For further information visit http://www.greatbearhealthcare.co.uk/our-products/mummy- baby-bear-leg-bag

D4D secures £100k funding to develop medical technologies for children with long-term conditions

The National Institute for Health Research has awarded Devices for Dignity HTC additional funding (£100,000) to develop, in collaboration with the main five childrens hospitals in UK, innovative medical technologies to meet the specific needs of children with long term conditions.

Using the methodology developed by Devices for Dignity HTC, a new paediatric theme will identify, validate and prioritise unmet needs and will catalyse the development of new healthcare technologies with a specific focus on the paediatric sector.

D4D live on BBC Radio Sheffield!

BBC Radio Sheffield presenter Rony Robinson spoke exclusively to Nicola Heron, programme manager, and Oliver Wells, commercial director from D4D about the Sheffield support snood and their bid to win £10,000 as part of the NHS Innovation Challenge Prizes ‘Acorn Challenge’. The interview, which is broadcast to 200,000-plus listeners, outlined how the special motor neurone disease support snood was developed, what the benefits would be for patients, and what D4D intend to do with the £10,000 prize money if they win. The presenter even gave his personal backing to the team – informing listeners that ‘all of Sheffield was behind them!”

Benefits for patients living with renal disease

An article written by David Coyle, project manager at NIHR Devices for Dignity HTC, has been published in KidneyLife, the magazine of the National Kidney Federation. The article reviews technology innovations with potential to benefit patients living with renal disease and improve their quality of life.

Read the article here (pdf download, 184KB)

Download the KidneyLife Magazine here. (pdf download, 3MB)

Visit the website of the National Kidney Federation here.