Author: Justine Alford

The show must go on – part 1

In a matter of mere months, a new virus has completely changed the world. In the trail of destruction that coronavirus is causing, it has rudely propelled many of us into a new way of working. 

Offices have closed, laboratories shut their doors, classrooms and lecture theatres emptied. But the world has not ground to a halt – the show must go on. At IGHI, our researchers are continuing their endeavour to improve health and care. In this new series, find out how our people are adapting to working life amid coronavirus, and the unique opportunities and challenges this has presented them.

Empowering stroke survivors in their own recovery

It was Christmas time three years ago when Amy experienced a stroke. Amy was enjoying her retirement, having spent her career working in publishing. But the stroke took away her independence, paralysing her left arm such that she needed full-time care. This isn’t an uncommon outcome: some 80% of people experience difficulty using their arms after a stroke.

Amy spent the next four months in hospital, the beginning of a long road to recovery.

“The rehabilitation I received in hospital mainly focused on walking, but it was my hand that I really needed help with,” she says.

“And I wasn’t told that if I didn’t use my hand that I would lose function of it.”

5 ways our researchers are working to better spot and treat cancer

Cancer survival is improving and today, half of people diagnosed will survive their disease. This is thanks to research. Research that’s guiding governments to change their policies, underpinning awareness campaigns and educational initiatives, turning discoveries into treatments and prevention measures.

But there’s still much to be done to help more people survive, by catching the disease earlier and developing better treatments.

This World Cancer Day, and as part of our celebrations to mark IGHI’s 10th anniversary this year, find out how our researchers are working to make that happen. Join us in exploring some of our projects that could lead to better detection, diagnosis and treatment of cancer.

Feedback First – making patient complaints easier to digest

People complain for a variety of reasons. But international evidence consistently finds that most people complain to prevent incidents from happening to others – they want to see change as a result, when they feel something isn’t right. Making a complaint can therefore be an empowering process, if people know – or feel – that their actions could make a difference.

Dealing with complaints is an important learning process for those that the complaint is directed against, but also the institution more widely. They can highlight problems that may have otherwise slipped through the net, prompting action that can prevent the same mistakes happening again and affecting more people.

A simple piece of paper to help make taking medicines safer

Taking medicines is the most common way that we attempt to stave off or treat illness. Every day people all across the world use medicines to help improve their health and wellbeing. They’ve transformed the treatment and outlook for many diseases, helping people live longer and healthier lives. Yet medicines are also a major risk to patients’ safety. And this risk is not only a result of drugs’ side effects.

Mistakes in the treatment process can also lead to patient harm. Errors can happen at any stage of the pathway; when professionals prescribe, dispense and administer drugs. In England alone, it’s estimated that over 230 million such errors occur every year, causing hundreds of deaths and contributing to thousands more.

NHS data is valuable – how can it ensure a fair return?

By Gianluca Fontana and Saira Ghafur, Centre for Health Policy

Our National Health Service owns some of the most comprehensive patient data sets across the globe. This makes these data a very valuable asset – not just as a springboard for improving health and care through learning from the data, but also in terms of the potential for financial return. It is critical that if the NHS shares this data with companies, in an appropriate and secure way, it also receives a fair share of this financial return.

These are arguments we make in a new article published in Lancet Digital Health.

Not just for Christmas – how Xbox technology could help transform healthcare

Many will be wishing to discover an Xbox-shaped gift glittering under the Christmas tree this year. Aside from the seemingly endless hours of entertainment, joy, frustration and competition that these consoles offer, Xbox technology – and other similar gadgets – is finding uses outside of the gaming world, and in the healthcare research sphere.

Sharing healthcare data for better and safer care

By Dr Ana Luisa Neves, General Practitioner and IGHI Research Fellow

The promise of healthcare data is staggering – and now, we have the information and tools to use it effectively that we’ve never had before.

Electronic health records can contribute to making life-altering changes in patient education and treatment. We’re increasingly realising their potential as a powerful resource for researchers and policymakers. Applying big data analytics in electronic health datasets can help us better understand patient needs. We can identify underserved or excluded groups and therefore contribute to delivering safer, better, and more patient-centred care.

However, much still needs to be done to increase the availability of healthcare data before these goals can be realised.

Melting minds: how is the climate crisis affecting our mental health?

By Dr Emma Lawrance, IGHI Mental Health Innovations Fellow

It is the cliche refrain that every new generation hears: “You don’t know how lucky you are. Back in MY day…” [insert terrible circumstance here]. And young people today are indeed lucky in many ways, with new opportunities facilitated by new technologies always emerging. But they also face rising mental health challenges. Levels of emotional distress are increasing in UK youth to the extent it’s oft branded a “crisis”.

The finger of blame is pointed to numerous potential causes – increased pressure in the schooling system, social media and cyberbullying, unstable employment prospects.