Shoestring’s first hospital pilot begins

This month Addenbrooke’s Hospital’s histopathology department specified the requirements for a job tracking solution as part of Shoestring’s first hospital pilot

Shoestring’s early explorations into how the low-cost approach could help hospitals and the healthcare sector during the pandemic all contributed to the launch of the new affiliated programme, Shoestring |Digital Healthcare. The programme’s initial focus is primarily to support the overall infrastructure, operations, and administrative aspects of healthcare organisations rather than being directly patient- or treatment-centric.

Since August 2020 Shoestring has explored various peripheral digital solutions which would support people working in healthcare. This activity helped contribute to the compilation of an initial catalogue of Shoestring solution areas for healthcare, which contained 23 solutions inspired by the Shoestring | Digital Manufacturing catalogue of solution areas.

During the research phase of Shoestring, the team investigated numerous types of low-cost solution that could help healthcare professionals. The information diagram above shows how an app could help provide information on equipment. The diagram below illustrates how a low-cost system could help support temperature monitoring in a pharmacy.

Pharmacy Temperature Monitoring solution for Shoestring

Over the past year Shoestring has contributed to the University of Cambridge’s Digital Hospitals research project, funded by the NHS Cambridge University Hospitals (CUH), helping to investigate possible low-cost digital solutions that can provide peripheral support to the hospital’s day-to-day operations.

In April this year, Duncan McFarlane, Professor of Industrial Information Engineering at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM), and Anandarup Mukherjee, Research Associate, led Shoestring’s first Awareness (Requirements) workshop with some members of the histopathology department at Addenbrooke’s Hospital, which is part of the CUH NHS Foundation Trust.

Image above: Results from the Shoestring Awareness Workshop held at Addenbrooke’s Hospital

This Awareness workshop revealed that process monitoring, job tracking and capacity monitoring were the top three priority digital solution areas amongst all participants and inventory tracking was also voted by many as a ‘good-to-have’ solution area (see the workshop’s ranking chart below). In addition participants suggested that an air quality monitoring digital solution area should be added to the Digital Healthcare catalogue. Interestingly, these selection trends closely follow those seen in the Shoestring Requirements workshops held with small- and medium-sized companies in the manufacturing sector.  One of the workshop participants commented: 

After participating in the Shoestring Awareness Workshop we realise that our operations are very similar to an industrial assembly line, similar to what is seen in manufacturing industries."

This month the Shoestring team helped the histopathology team specify the requirements for their job tracking (location and status) solution, which will help them keep track of the movement of sample slides between the department’s different laboratories and identify potential delays in processing them. The solution will be deployed over the summer.

Next steps

The Shoestring Digital Healthcare team aim to engage with more organisations through the Shoestring process, especially those who are healthcare service providers or work directly with healthcare services. They would like to explore how the manufacturing-inspired Shoestring program fits with the healthcare industry, and obtain insights into how the Shoestring healthcare solution areas can be evolved to address a wider healthcare community.

Do you work in the healthcare sector and would you like to get involved?

Find out more

For more information please email Anand Mukherjee:


Header image: Shoestring & the Digital Hospitals research team from the University of Cambridge hold an Awareness workshop at Addenbrooke’s Hospital.