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Liberty Device: A Game-Changer in Cancer Care, Allowing Patients to Test Blood at Home

Liberty device
  • The Liberty device, approved for cancer patients, allows at-home blood tests, potentially reducing hospital visits.
  • Despite promising results, more research is needed to determine widespread effectiveness, according to Cancer Research UK.

A new device designed to help reduce hospital stays for cancer patients has been approved for use.

The Liberty enables patients to take blood tests at home, upload the results themselves, and all without needing supervision from a medical professional.

Users report it allows them to avoid draining hospital visits, while doctors believe it could improve efficiency within the National Health Service (NHS).

Following trials at The Christie hospital in Manchester, the device will now be deployed at 12 NHS locations.

However, Cancer Research UK cautions that so far, testing has only involved a small group of people. More research is needed before knowing if it can be widely used in cancer care, according to the charity.

Cancer treatment often involves frequent blood tests to monitor various health markers like hemoglobin levels and white blood cell counts.

Lynn Thompson, who has battled both ovarian and bowel cancer since 2017 and participated in the trial, said being able to conduct some of these tests at home was a huge relief.

“I just fell in love with the machine to be really honest with you. It was so simple to follow and to use,” the 52-year-old said.

She explained that the device allowed her to break free from a rigid schedule of hospital visits, which she found physically and mentally exhausting, especially due to her fear of needles.

“By the time I would go into the blood room to the chair, I would probably faint, and that has a knock-on effect – it made me feel really poorly all day.

“The machine took all that away, it’s a simple finger prick that doesn’t hurt. It’s a small amount of blood and then it’s hidden away – there’s no stress or anxiety.”

The device, roughly the size of a small printer, can transmit blood sample analysis directly to hospital teams.

Sacha Howell, a senior lecturer in medical oncology at the University of Manchester, said the shift from hospital-based blood testing to the comfort of patients’ homes is not only more convenient for patients but could also lead to cost savings for the NHS.

Recently, The Christie – one of the largest cancer treatment centres of its type in Europe – has positioned phlebotomy units around the region in what’s known as “bloods closer to home.”

“But it still means we have to staff those units, in order for the patients to be able to have the blood tests,” said Dr Howell.

“If the patients were able to simply do them themselves at home, that would result in significant efficiencies.”

Trials conducted at The Christie have shown promising results, although the number of patients involved was small.

There have been 22 patients like Lynn who participated in a home study, in addition to regulatory approval trials involving 470 patients.

Cancer Research UK expressed caution due to the low numbers involved.

“It is very early days” for this tech “and further research is needed” it said in a statement.

“The regulatory approval does not give indications of effectiveness or clinical utility at this stage – those questions would need to be addressed in future clinical trials of the device before it could be used more widely,” it added.

The boss of the company which makes it, Entia, is upbeat though about what he says is the world’s first ever blood count analyser that patients can use in their own home.

“By providing insights into patients’ health status, the device empowers healthcare professionals to pre-emptively address complications, reducing hospitalizations and treatment interruptions,” Dr Toby Basey-Fisher said.

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