What's next in tech in healthcare

Nathan Baranowski

Digital transformation, connectivity technology and greater levels of security – the healthcare sector has been touched by future tech. With the benefits made clear by a number of alternative sectors, funding for innovation is starting to be allocated to the National Health Service in far greater sums.

Wellbeing, Health & Social Care

With more pressure on health services expected post-Brexit, combined with an ageing population and cuts to local services, an upgrade of the NHS has been identified as a key priority.

The current Health Secretary Matt Hancock has promised to make £487m available for “NHS technology projects and digital incentives” in his first speech in the role.

Taking over from the controversial Jeremy Hunt, Hancock spoke with staff at West Suffolk hospital, confirming: “From today, let this be clear: tech transformation is coming. The opportunities of new technology, right across the whole of health and social care, are vast. Let’s work together to seize them.”

£412m from the pot will be utilised to transform hospital technology with an emphasis on preventative care, keeping patients out of hospital longer through ensuring better services while at home. The remainder, £75m, will be pushed towards the digitalisation of hospital records – finishing the stalled project brought forward under Hunt.

So, with the health service heavily investing in the next stage of technology, what can we expect over the next decade? This was one of the topics broached at HIMSS 2018 in Las Vegas – the flagship event of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

Speaking with Samsung at the event, VP of development at Vivify Health confirmed that “The expansion of IoT (Internet of Things) in the home [really excites me],” highlighting that the use of apps can be integrated in pre-existing devices. 

With wearables and IoT devices now firmly entrenched in the mainstream, an additional £75m in funding to boost adoption rates will have a significant impact.

The factors that are boosting wearable adoption in healthcare are twofold. Firstly, better health quality for patients. The second option comes down to finances. 

It’s a simple formula – encourage better health at home, and fewer patients will turn up at the hospital. In the US, insurance firms have confirmed they are able to either start, or fully reimburse, the cost of wearable healthcare solutions. By paying for this technology, they save significant amounts of money in the long-term by improving health at home.

From this, there are a large number of lessons we can learn from our US counterparts.

Despite a higher cost per head and, arguably, less effective patient outcomes, the US is outperforming the UK in terms of technology adoption. Gartner notes that “many [US] hospitals and health systems are paddling upstream, straddling two canoes between value-based care and fee-for-service.” It is this dual challenge that is encouraging technology for alternative staffing models, patient reprioritisation and IP capitalisation.

This behaviour change is what is required in the UK.

Confirming, the Gartner research found that “At the outset, keeping pace with rapid technology developments is likely to require massive investments in electronic patient records, eHealth/mHealth, interoperability, and big data amongst others.”

According to recent research, Gartner has predicted that by the end of 2020, 40% of large health systems will shift away from test programmes and move towards full-scale digital rollouts – a 35% increase from the year prior. Further, the Gartner research noted that, by 2021, 90% of wellness programmes will include fitness trackers such as the Fitbit – an increase from 60% in 2017.

Ultimately, through the use of wearable tech in the home, medical professionals can begin to predict patient wellbeing. Heart rate tests, for example, can be completed quickly and easily, without the added stress of being in a GP office – a setting which often skews results. Extended tracking can even identify heart rhythm disorder.

Currently, the biggest issues with using these devices in a medical setting is security. It’s been well reported that IoT devices aren’t built with security in mind… or frankly, with anything other than getting the product out to market ASAP in mind.

As such, we’ll need some change in the market to truly consider adoption as a foregone conclusion. PwC believes the solution could have some basis in blockchain, with said wearable device updating the ledger system at specified intervals.

At ojo solutions, healthcare and medtech are a core focus. We help firms maximise the value from their technology investment and help drive digital transformation undertakings from the ground up. Get in touch with us today and find out how we can help.

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