As 2017 quickly comes to an end, it’s time for us to share our technology and healthcare predictions for 2018.
As the NHS faces its biggest challenges in its existence and reaches the crisis point, it is believed that advancements in technology can bring the NHS up to modern standards and help meet the needs of the ever-growing UK population. Our top 4 trends and predictions are:
The Rise of ‘Telemedicine’
Simon Stevens recently predicted that the wait list for hospital operations could soon hit 5 million, with one in ten people on waiting lists by 2021. How can technology ease this pressure, and could the answer lie with telemedicine?
What is it?
A ‘telemedicine’ app allows medical professionals and healthcare providers to communicate with their patients effectively in a non-surgical environment. These apps join both doctors and patients in a conference style call/meeting so they can receive regular check-ups, obtain new or repeat prescriptions and access other medical attention – all without the need to travel to a scheduled physical meeting with a doctor or clinician.
Expect a rise in telemedicine in both the NHS and private sector throughout 2018 as new free/paid services continue appear, alongside the increased adoption of the NHS’s new 24/7 NHS GP service.
- Quicker access to medical attention. Telemedicine removes previous barriers – such as mobility and geography – that may have previously deterred patients from visiting GPs.
- Reduced waiting times. Patients can speak directly with specialist instead of having to visit a GP and wait for a referral.
- Patient engagement is increased. Doctors can be involved more in the day to day care provision and patients can reach out with questions more frequently, potentially reporting warning signs which may otherwise go missed or unreported.
- Reducing missed appointments. Missed appointments cost the NHS an estimated £162m a year and telemedicine can potentially reduce this figure substantially.
Telemedicine does have some limitations such as the inability to perform physical examinations, the initial start-up costs of creating the app, and a fear of a break down in care continuity as patients could potentially speak with a different clinician on each call.
Increase in mHealth Technology
What is it?
A device which enables users to monitor, measure and improve their health using a mobile device. Over the last 5 years there has been a rapid increase in this sector with wearable devices such as FitBit becoming popular among consumers who want to track and manage their health and fitness.
A rise in combination apps and wearable devices allowing patients to take control of their healthcare.
- Chronic condition management. Wearable devices are paired with mobile apps so patients with chronic conditions can monitor their health – allowing patients who are restricted on travel to be almost anywhere and still receive notifications on their health.
- Automation and integration with healthcare providers. Data from mHealth devices can be seamlessly integrated with their healthcare provider who can make recommendations accordingly – both enhancing direct patient care and providing more data for providers to use for analysis.
- Reducing reliance on hospital care. It is predicated that over 500 million patients worldwide will be using mHealth applications in the coming years to manage their health and send their data to healthcare providers.
As the wearable devices market continues to increase with many brands such as FitBit, Apple and Garmin bringing out innovative new products, the current challenge is proving to be around education. Suppliers and providers are struggling to convince patients these devices exist and that they are worth an investment to help manage their ongoing health.
Logistical issues such as keeping devices charged can also be an issue. If it is not charged, it will not record or monitor. For patients who need to regularly monitor their health, when will they charge their devices, and what happens if they forget?
Robotic Healthcare Assistants
What is it?
The combination of both Artificial Intelligence and Robotics is now reaching the stage where it is able to replace certain health and care staff in certain activities. This reduces labour, automates certain time-consuming tasks, and potentially prevents incidents of human error.
For example, AI will be able to advise and remind patients to take their medication, as well as issuing alerts to external carers/family when patients have not got out of bed or if they require physical help.
By 2020, one hospital in four with 200 or more beds will have robotic healthcare assistants.
- Helping isolated individuals. Some individuals do not have family or friends that can care for them or simply cannot afford regular care from a care home or agency. AI robots may be extremely beneficial to these individuals, and will be able to help individuals improve the management of their lives and well-being.
- Automating manual processes. Robots can help automate manual processes throughout the supply chain, increasing efficiency and freeing up resources for other activities.
- Removing chance for human error. Surgical robots can begin assisting with complex surgical procedures and de-risk high risk operations that rely on incredibly precise hand movements.
Despite the positives, there are many limitations and consequences of robotic assistants at the moment. For patient care staff will still need to be present to help patients physically and in case of malfunction.
The initial investment into AI robots will no doubt be costly as the technology is expensive and will need to regular high quality maintenance to ensure patients are not put at risk and errors don’t occur.
And finally, will we really trust robots to perform complex surgical tasks on behalf of humans? There is still a way to go before the general public will truly trust robots and AI.
Generic – Data/Analytics/IoT/ AI
IoT Will Take Over the Home
One of our previous blogs discussed how the Internet of Things has gone OTT and it has not slowed down since. As smart technology becomes more accessible to consumers many homes are now investing in this new technology with everything from clocks, speakers and lights to doorbells, blinds and toasters becoming connected to the internet.
What is it?
Home automation is exactly as it sounds – automating the ability to control household items with the push of a button or voice command. Smart speakers such as the Amazon Echo, Google Home or Apple HomePod allow users to ask questions and receive answers in seconds. These devices can manage music playback, to do lists, traffic information, and other real-time data. Some brands allow smart speakers to connect to other appliances and control them, increasing the home automation network even further through either voice or mobile applications.
The continued use and implementation of smart technology with smart speakers is expected to increase from 4 billion units to 7 billion by 2020.
Home automation provides users with a whole host of benefits ranging from convenience, efficiency, security to customisability. For example, home owners can answer their door when they are not home, check the property and surrounding areas for potential security threats, talk to pets and control their appliances all from their mobile devices whilst on the go. Devices can enhance living conditions and drive efficiency within the home.
Although they come with many benefits, home automation and IoT devices are not always reliable. Technology is known for being hackable and if in the wrong hands, can lead to awful outcomes. Hackers can break into your home once they have obtained the password to you lock, giving them the ability to physically gain access to your house.