Disruptive technologies that are transforming the NHS
At a time of great concern over personal data protection as well as general online privacy several international corporations as well as UK start-ups continue to pursue the task of transforming the healthcare space through tech, seeking to improve and make health services more accessible to all. But what are the long-term implications and how can this technology truly disrupt the NHS? This was the main topic of discussion at our T/F/D ‘Health & Disruptive Technologies’ event hosted alongside London-based digital startup lab Activate Capital and industry experts Kim Guest, Maneesh Juneja and Chris Crockford. During the discussion it was agreed that the UK healthcare system is currently under immense strain and that tools such as online services, healthcare apps powered by AI and even social media platforms hold part of the solution in helping to relieve pressure off health practitioners and improve attention for patients throughout the UK.
Online health services
Online GP services such as video consultations available via mobile apps are increasingly becoming the norm in the UK with proven benefits for both healthcare practitioners, who gain much necessary time, and their patients, who are seeing the rewards in greater access and personalisation in each consultation.
Kim Guest, founder and CEO of UK health startup isoshealth, is among those who aim to transform the system by providing customers online access to a multidisciplinary team of practitioners who help set and maintain individual health goals. “We must make sure everyone gets access to developed technology and that the progress we’re making extends into people’s homes beyond NHS services,” she highlighted during the discussion. Kim has over 20 years’ experience in business and pioneering digital health and defends the need of guaranteeing that everyone across the country has access to technology and that those building new services for the healthcare space, from apps to physical devices, spend time in the environment they’re building it for in order to make it the most effective solution.
Gadgets such as fitness trackers and virtual voice assistants are also gaining more and more importance in the healthcare space as they become the main source of data and information for people wanting to monitor their health. In this context, health practitioners are now not only having to deal with people researching their symptoms online, but also patients turning up to consultations with data collected from their devices.
World renowned digital health futurist and TEDx speaker Maneesh Juneja believes individuals should own and have access to their personal health data, whether they choose to use it or not. Furthermore, even though there are still those who are sceptical about the use of technology and AI powered apps to diagnose health conditions, these have been proven to sometimes provide a better experience than a traditional consultation. Ultimately, when it comes to healthcare devices, the focus should be on pursuing technology that helps reduce the risk of more serious conditions.
Failed astronaut turned innovation and technology consultant Chris Crockford also highlighted that there’s currently “consumer technology that hasn’t been designed for healthcare that’s in fact improving the lives of many people” such as Amazon’s Alexa in, for instance, easing the burden on carers and patients suffering from dementia. However, in terms of evidencing this technology, he argues that more consumer research must be conducted to find out if this tech is actually benefiting society. “We all have great ideas about how we’re going to change health but actually none of us think about or do enough research into what the consumer wants and how we can improve their lives through technology.”
Social media platforms
Although controversial, social media also has a role to play in supporting the health industry. Platforms like Facebook are currently enabling peer to peer health advice by connecting individuals with similar health needs and providing them with a forum to talk about their experiences. Additionally, some healthcare providers have even resorted to using Twitter to identify and engage with people that may be suffering from specific health conditions such as insomnia.
“Patients around the world, especially those with rare diseases, are turning to social media tools like Facebook and finding other members of these communities that aren’t listened to on an individual basis,” said Maneesh. People who suffer from rare conditions usually don’t get diagnosed for years and then it’s a case of trying to get treatment and the right form of care, he adds. Some examples of this can be seen in health research studies conducted in the U.S., including one based on Instagram posts that hinted at the possibility of diagnosing depression based on how people choose to use the apps filters.