Loughborough partnership will create new app to transform self-management of chronic health conditions

A middle aged man looks at his phone while taking a walk

Researchers from Loughborough’s Centre for Lifestyle Medicine and Behaviour (CLiMB) and Wolfson School of Engineering are set to develop an innovative digital health app, that will help individuals with multiple chronic conditions to manage their health care better.

The team will work in partnership with healthy habit coaching app, Holly Health, and awarding-winning health care and community services provider, Modality Partnership, to launch the Prevent App.  

The pioneering project has successfully secured £447,000 from Innovate UK, which will enable them to develop a cutting-edge Just-in-Time Adaptive Intervention (JITAI) machine learning system that effectively manages chronic conditions. 

With 30% of UK adults living with two or more chronic conditions, also known as multimorbidity, the technology has the potential to improve the health outcomes for hundreds and thousands of people.  

Care for those with multimorbidity currently accounts for 70% of the NHS’s total health and social care expenditure. Self-management of chronic conditions can reduce or even reverse disease progression, which in turn reduces the demand for NHS services. However, financial constraints, unsuitable existing tools and staff shortages prevent the NHS from being able to provide adequate self-management support. 

The Holly Health Prevent app addresses these issues by offering a comprehensive individualised solution for managing multiple chronic conditions.  

The new app will enhance the Holly Health Personalised Digital Coaching Service, which has already shown a 33% reduction in patients needing GP support. It will combine machine learning with adaptive behaviour change techniques to deliver timely and effective coaching interventions to individuals. 

Dr James Sanders, academic lead at Loughborough University, commented:  

“We’re excited to be pairing the top behavioural science approaches with cutting-edge machine learning technology, recognising that people with multiple chronic conditions have unique and evolving needs. Accessible digital technologies, like Holly Health Prevent, will provide a great opportunity to drive the day-to-day behaviours that have the potential to revolutionise the management of chronic conditions.” 

Dr James Fleming, Senior Lecturer in intelligent control systems at Loughborough, commented: 

“It’s great to be part of a project like this that takes a data-driven approach to health and wellbeing. Holly Health’s Prevent app is truly innovative and shows great promise to both improve outcomes for individual patients using personalisation and have a significant positive impact on a population scale.”  

Grace Gimson, CEO of Holly Health, said:  

“We’re very excited to be working with Loughborough University and Modality on this project. This will enable our Prevent app to become the go-to multimorbidity digital self-management tool, which is scalable and will help the NHS meet current societal needs, as well as future proof these for years to come. 

“Working on Holly Health Prevent with an initial academic focus, to ensure its fit for use before rolling it out on a commercial level has never been done before, and we’re pleased to be the first partnership to do so. Loughborough University’s CLiMB and Wolfson School, and the support of Modality, which has access to millions of patients, will allow us to develop the right kind of machine learning technology that is personalised for every patient and offers them the best management for their chronic conditions.”  

Vincent Sai, CEO of Modality Partnership, commented: 

“This project consortium has huge potential as it will combine Holly Health's proven track record of successfully supporting people with health conditions with Loughborough University's behavioural science and machine learning expertise as well as our primary healthcare and community services experience to develop the most efficient app possible in Prevent.”  

The app will undergo 18 months of vigorous academic development before being deployed to the population, in a process never seen before in the UK. It will initially target patients aged 40-65 at risk or already living with multimorbidity, a significant focus since over 50% of people over 60 have multimorbidity.  

Once live, the project is aiming for commercial rollout and NHS implementation of the app, to promote a more efficient, robust multimorbidity management system, and help the NHS reduce associated costs while meeting national health targets. 

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