Clinical Research Office. A partnership between Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and the University of Sheffield

New smartphone illness prevention study announced as part of Google investment in groundbreaking research

Google has announced investment in groundbreaking research, apprenticeships and digital skills training through the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub to help address health inequalities and drive economic growth across the region.

Led by the University of Sheffield and Sheffield Hallam University, the £4m South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub, which Sheffield Teaching Hospitals is a lead partner in, aims to improve peoples’ health and quality of life by creating innovative digital technologies to improve the way diseases are diagnosed and treated. 

As part of this, the South Yorkshire Digital Health Hub will work with Google on a series of pioneering research opportunities.

South Yorkshire smartphone illness prevention study

The first of these - the PUMAS study - aims to understand whether Pixel smartphone sensors that detect light, radar, and electrical signals from the heart could aid the detection of common conditions such as hypertension, high cholesterol and chronic kidney disease. Early detection of these conditions could help people to make informed lifestyle choices which could slow down and even in some cases prevent their progression. 

The first study of its kind, looking at how digital technologies could transform the way that people interact with their health, has the potential to save lives, improve health outcomes and alleviate NHS pressures.

Tim Chico, Honorary Consultant Cardiologist at Sheffield Teachng Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Sheffield and Director of South Yorkshire’s Digital Health Hub, said: 

“We launched this health hub because we know that the more information we have about patients’ health as early as possible, the more opportunities we will have to make a difference.  With partners like Google, we are able to look at how we harness technology to support that information gathering, to support patients and medical professionals to make decisions together earlier leading to better outcomes. Bringing together patients, healthcare professionals, researchers and companies creates a community of practice – it’s the future”.   

Steve Haake MBE, Professor of Sports Engineering at Sheffield Hallam University and Deputy Director of the Digital Health Hub, said: 

“Our vision is to develop digital health tools that incorporate information from daily life to help patients and healthcare professionals make the right decisions at the right time. I am delighted to be working collaboratively across the region and with industry partners like Google whose expertise and support will be invaluable to the success of the Digital Health Hub and its ability to improve people’s health outcomes across South Yorkshire”.  

South Yorkshire’s Mayor Oliver Coppard said: 

“Google are world leaders in digital health. Our partnership is based on our shared ambition to tackle the stark health inequalities that plague our communities, using cutting edge digital tools and solutions to address long-term problems."

Google also announced a three-year partnership with the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority to fund 30 digital apprenticeships for small businesses in South Yorkshire.

Google will also provide 500 Fitbits for a separate study on post-surgical rehabilitation. 

VP and Managing Director for Google UK and Ireland, Debbie Weinstein, added: 

“We’re proud to be supporting South Yorkshire’s academic, medical and local government institutions as they explore how technology could improve quality of life, free up valuable NHS resources and drive economic growth.

“Technology has the power to transform the nation’s health and we recognise the need for an approach that unlocks both the innovative tools and the skills needed to implement these solutions. That’s why we’re excited to have this opportunity to invest in this cross-sector collaboration which we hope will drive lasting change and serve as a proof of concept for other regions across the UK.”


Photo: From left to right: Professor Tim Chico, Professor Liz Mossop, Professor Steve Haake, Debbie Weinstein, Oliver Coppard, Professor Koen Lamberts, Dr Susan Thomas, Steven Pleasant