Our digital health researchers undertake consultancy and applied research studies, with clients from across health and social care sectors and from health technology businesses.

Current projects

Digital Healthcare at Scale: Tools, Training and Best Practice through roll-out of a Falls Prevention Service

This project is funded by the Academic Health Science Network North East and Cumbria and is a partnership between County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust (CDDFT) and the University of Cumbria. There is a wider collaboration with delivery partners, including CDDFT, local CCGs, Cumbria CCG and Cumbria Partnership FT.

CDDFT is experienced in running digital services for INR testing and for nutrition monitoring using the InHealthcare platform. CDDFT undertook a small digital health pilot as part of the falls service using a clinically validated programme called OTAGO. The pilot evaluation showed the service to be viable; enthusiasm from patients, and resource efficiencies.

This project will analyse, assimilate and translate knowledge and data into a set of tools to support successful roll out of the digital falls service. We will look particularly at

  • Supporting staff to address and overcome workability barriers
  • Guidance on capturing and communicating clinical outcomes and resource efficiency information
  • Guidance for the selection and support of patients – coaching patients to self-manage
  • Guidance for peer support and motivation – training staff to train others.

The extent and nature of GP direct access to diagnostic investigations for cancer across the North East and Cumbria

This project is funded by the Early Diagnosis Advisory Group (EDAG) at Cancer Research UK. It is a collaborative project involving collaboration between the Northern Cancer Alliance Northern England Clinical Networks, CaCHeT at University of Cumbria and University of Northumbria; it is led by Dr Peter McMeekin (Associate Professor of Health Economics at University of Northumbria)

The study aims to assess how effectively GPs use direct referrals to radiology tests for the investigation of suspected cancers, and discern what factors influence GPs when referring patients. The purpose of the study is to provide an accurate picture of GP referral practices in order to make recommendations for reducing the time to cancer diagnosis across the region. CaCHeT are undertaking qualitative interviews with GPs to facilitate this. The study will:

  • Give guidance and recommendations for practice on potential reductions in the time to cancer diagnosis.
  • Inform commissioning and provider decisions, and provide a basis for addressing regional variations in patient outcomes.
  • Explore the potential of digital applications and telemedicine options to improve referral processes, data-sharing and access to test results.

Connected Health Cities

The North West Coast Connected Health Cities programme will provide integrated and shared access to social and health patient data in three pathways - epilepsy, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder (COPD) and alcohol misuse. This will enable clinicians to make improved judgements and provide better treatment, as well as providing benefits to researchers, population health planners and commissioners. Our project is to research the perceived benefits and opportunities to healthcare professionals working in these pathways. We will also be investigating how businesses and entrepreneurs can engage more effectively to bring new products into the health sector. 

Vanguard Digital Leaders Course

A series of action learning sets and workshops for Digital Leaders from 10 different NHS Vanguard sites, working with mHabitat Ltd and the NHS Leadership Academy. Our role is to provide theoretical context and enable the Digital Leader participants to obtain credits on our Digital Health Postgraduate Programme.

Completed projects

Fetal Telemedicine

The provision of fetal medicine (FM) services is dependent on the availability of specialists who have the required expertise in interpreting ultrasound images and counselling parents. In the absence of ‘expertise’ women are referred to specialist Fetal Medicine Centres (FMC). For women living in remote areas, referral can mean hours of travel at their own expense.

With support of the AHSN NENC, a fetal telemedicine service was established in October 2015, between a District General Hospital and the FM Unit of a major teaching hospital. A collaborative evaluation was undertaken in which researchers from CaCHeT undertook a study with clinical stakeholders to ascertain the barriers and benefits of the service from their perspective.

Findings from the evaluation have been presented at The British Maternal and Fetal Medicine Society 19th Annual Conference. 30th-31st March 2017, Beurs van Berlage, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, and The Kings Fund Digital Health and Care Congress 2017: Embedding technology in health and social care. 11th-12th July 2017, London.

Technology enabled care and wellbeing@home event 1st March 2017 - presentations

This event was designed to showcase the possibilities of technology enabled care with over twenty-five exhibitors demonstrating a wide range of Technology Enabled Care Services. There was an afternoon seminar chaired by Steve Smith from WEL being, one of the largest providers of telehealthcare solutions in the UK. Speakers included Kevin Doughty, iCUHTEC; Malcolm Fisk, Telehealthcare Quality Group; Peter Knock, Service Development Manager, Cumbria County Council; and Professor Alison Marshall, director of the Cumbrian Centre for Health Technologies (CaCHeT), University of Cumbria; their presentations can be accessed via the links below.

Alison Marshall's presentation

Malcom Fisk's presentation

Peter Knock's presentation

Kevin Doughty's presentation

Cumbria Rural Health Forum (March 2016)

Rural communities face particular issues in accessing health and social care. The Cumbria Rural Health Forum was formed in 2013 to help understand and address these issues, with funding from the Academic Health Science Network for North East and North Cumbria (AHSN NENC) and the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (NWC AHSN). The Forum represents health and social care providers from the public, private and voluntary sectors, health technology companies, health and social care commissioners and policy makers. Our project from 2014-2016, looked at strategic approaches to using digital technologies in health and social care, through road mapping workshops, background research and implementation workshops. The Cumbria Rural Health Forum is no longer active.

See also Ditchburn, Jae-Llane and Marshall, Alison (2016) The Cumbria Rural Health Forum: initiating change and moving forward with technology. Rural and Remote Health, 16 (3738) (Click here to view)

A mapping of health and social care services and technologies was completed in May 2015. The findings are summarised in the above paper. 

Telemedicine Support to Home Renal Dialysis Patients (May 2015)

We assessed benefits to support a business case for an innovative ‘home renal dialysis’ service at Lancashire Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust - a summary can be found here .

Renal Health Poster

Teleswallowing (April 2015)

An adoption study for Blackpool NHS Foundation Trust of a Speech and Language Therapy Innovation to enable remote swallowing assessment - a summary of the research can be found here ; for a detailed case study please see:

Bidmead, E., Reid, T., Marshall, A. and Southern, V. (2015),"“Teleswallowing”: a case study of remote swallowing assessment", Clinical Governance: An International Journal, Vol. 20 Iss 3 pp. 155 – 168 

Teleswallowing Poster

The Patients Know Best Solution (March 2015)

A case study for Patients Know Best© of their patient controlled health record and communication system which was being used to support long term conditions with patients with Irritable Bowel Disease – a summary can be found here .

Bidmead, E. & Marshall, A. (2016) “A case study of stakeholder perceptions of patient held records: the Patients Know Best (PKB) solution”, Digital Health. 2 pp1-15  (DOI: 10.1177/2055207616668431). (Click here to view)

Patients Know Best Poster

Telehealth Readiness Tool (January 2015)

Working with the North West Coast Academic Health Science Network (NWC AHSN) and CSC Ltd, we developed a free tool for health and social care organisations to use to assess their readiness to implement digital health solutions. The Tool looks at partnership working, patients and the public, technology and infrastructure, quality, organisational issues. It is available as a Microsoft Excel file, which you can download below.


Telehealth Readiness Tool Version 3 January 2017