Driving tech change in healthcare

As it’s World Blood Donor Day today, our Business Analyst Cat Jones is considering Manchester’s investment into health, and what’s driving tech change in healthcare.

 

Right now, Greater Manchester is the only place in the UK with an advanced healthcare devolution deal.

Over the next 10 years, as part of the Greater Manchester ‘Our People, Our Place’ strategy, Manchester aims to create a more joined-up, personalised outlook of care to patients. Preventative care, person-centred, with place-based working.

If successful, Greater Manchester will become the only city region fully in control of their own health and social care spending – and as the city is already famous for being one of the largest tech hubs in the UK, it’s not surprising that a huge amount of healthcare investment is being directed towards driving tech change in healthcare.

Let’s look at why in more detail…

Healthcare realises it needs technology

The NHS is full of lengthy, time-consuming processes – many of which are still paper-based. Driving tech change in healthcare allows us to make these processes more efficient, but to do this well collaboration is key. Here are a few examples of the progress already being made…

  • NHSX– A joint unit formed to drive internal technology development in the NHS. By connecting industry leaders with tech innovators, they can communicate directly with clinicians and the government to create a culture of innovation. They call the scheme a ‘policy toolkit’, which will aim to improve the responsible delivery of healthcare by accelerating the adoption of safe, proven health tech, attempting to break down some of the barriers leading projects to fail in the past.
  • NHS Innovation Accelerator (NIA) – As part of the NIA programme, numerous new pieces of digital tech have launched, such as the HaMpton to detect hypertension in pregnant women, RespiraSense, a wireless device that measures breathing through the chest and abdomen and the WaitLess app, which directs patients with minor injuries to the quickest options for treatment.
  • NHS Digital Academy – A virtual organisation set up to develop a new generation of digital leaders, who can drive the information and technology transformation of the NHS. The first cohort of 100 delegates began the programme back in April 2018, which included people from clinical and non-clinical backgrounds, information officers and many others in charge of leading digital change. Applications for cohort 2 have been accepted and applications for cohort 3 will open in September 2019.

These are just a few examples of cultural change in action – technology will never be the end to end solution, and we’re not going to achieve utopia overnight, but credit where it’s due.

There are more fantastic people focussed on driving forward improvements in innovation than ever before, and it’s great to see digital being welcomed to the sector with open arms.

Technology realises it’s the perfect fit for healthcare

Us digital folk love to solve a problem (and to show off) – the healthcare sector gives us the opportunity to do both.

We can make a difference and really push the boundaries of tech within healthcare, more so than any other sector, but there’s also the more obvious solutions that are having a powerful impact. Here are five…

Wearables and monitoring

As mentioned previously, with the advancements in wearable tech, we’re now able to create devices for specific needs – like iHealth’s gluco-monitoring system. This allows patients to record pre/post meals, medications, share glucose readings and so on with their physician, cutting down on trips to their clinic.

But we can also make use of existing technology, such as the Apple Watch or FitBit (which are already being widely embraced) for the benefit of patients and healthcare professionals. They can help us drive forward a more tailored healthcare approach, tackling the rise of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and heart conditions in an extremely cost effective way.

Not to mention the data they can provide us with. Data, has always been and will always be really important to the NHS. With the addition of these new technologies, we begin to build up an even richer database of patient information, which can be used in many different ways.

mHealth apps

Wearables is one example of mobile tech, but what about utilising the smartphone? mHealth apps are a rising trend – 61% of people have downloaded an mHealth app according to a GreatCall survey, while 93% of physicians believe they can improve a patient’s health.

I’ll talk a little more on the consumer side later on, but what about apps within organisations? We worked with NHSBT to deliver DonorPath, starting out by digitally transforming NHS internal processes (which has been extremely successful – more on that here). DonorPath is now more intelligent; we’re making the solution aide nurses in the decision-making process, with lots more planned.

AR and VR

There are plenty of interesting examples of AR and VR being used in health. From doctors using Google glasses to access patient information during examinations, through to virtual reality allowing patients to “visit” their loved ones outside of hours.

But I think the best application of these two technologies is in training. Not just using VR to train medical professionals such as nurses and ambulance people how to deal with situations via simulations – the potential is more far reaching than that.

It can take 15 years to become a fully-qualified surgeon in the UK for example, and a critical part of that training is shadowing a surgeon. With hundreds of students waiting to do this, VR could enable multiple students to shadow a professional, in different locations across the country. And that’s really just the beginning.

Blockchain

This is an exciting area when it comes to sharing patient data and one I personally welcome. It’s my data – surely I should have control over who sees what?

Blockchain would make this possible in a really secure way, allowing patients to provide clinicians with a clearer picture of their history and in turn allow them to provide far better care.

Artificial intelligence

This is an area that the clinicians are really excited about – computers beat humans hands-down when it comes to the applications of AI we’re seeing, analysing imagery far quicker and more rigorously than a clinician ever could.

There’s also some really exciting work going on with genomes – for example, by using machine learning to identify patterns, we could predict an individual’s probability of developing a particular disease, or highlight the ideal, personalised care for the patient, from a more informed position.

Driving tech change in healthcare

What’s important to remember here is that none of these are just pie-in-the-sky ideas either – they’re already happening, being developed, tested, used. And people are embracing it.

With 52% of smartphone users gathering health-related information on their phones, that shows a clear public (as well as professional) trend towards HealthTech as more than just a concept.

That information can be about a variety of different things; a specific medical problem or procedure, diet and nutrition, prescriptions, alternative treatments, mental wellbeing and so on.

As you can see, there are many great examples of emerging and existing tech that are being adopted to drive patient-led care forward. Backed by organisations bringing industry specialists and innovators together, I think we’re moving in the right direction.

Devolution as part of this is exciting – by controlling budgets, reacting and shifting money to exactly where it’s needed, we’ll have the chance to create the impact we want, driving tech change in healthcare as a whole, not just Manchester.

Cat speaking at pro-manchester conference | Driving tech change in healthcare

Cat will be speaking at Pro-Manchester’s “What does the NHS Long Term Plan mean for devolution?” in a couple of weeks. If you’re interested in driving tech change in healthcare and want to hear more from her, check out the full agenda and ticket info here.