In June 2017, Theresa May announced an increase of £20 billion a year to the NHS’s budget ahead of their 70th birthday. This boost in funding holds new promise for healthcare services, yet there is a continuous pressure to ensure the money does not go to waste. Even with this added cash, there still remains a forecasted £30 billion gap in funding from 2020 to 2021.
“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them,” said Albert Einstein. This is why public health and care services are originating new ideas to better manage the healthcare system to cut costs while delivering a high standard of service at the same time.
At PredictX, we are lucky to be a part of that journey. Working with the NHS as a partner, we transform health and care data into actionable insight used to better manage care pathways. The NHS is currently developing new digital solutions to track patient journeys and care in order to better manage what steps to take with each patient at the right time. Digital transformation in healthcare is no longer a future event looming over the horizon. It is well under way.
How can we digitally transform this organisation?
We often see benefits of technology in other parts of our lives. We use data and technology-driven apps to easily manage our bank accounts, book our holidays and communicate with friends and family. This advanced use of data and technology is not only all around us but it has the potential to change a healthcare system for the better. We can improve the accountability of services, reduce their cost, increase efficiency while improving healthcare sustainability at the same time.
Below are four digital technologies guaranteed to improve both the quality and efficiency of healthcare services while reducing cost.
1. Big Data
In healthcare, medical records, continuous monitoring and research provides healthcare systems with scores of quantifiable data. We can use this data to detect correlations, patterns and trends. Once we see the trends, we can use the insight to feed it back into the healthcare system to determine what resources should be targeted while pinpointing exactly where they should be targeted.
The Internet of Medical Things (IoMT) is the connected system of medical devices and applications that collect data that is then provided to healthcare IT systems through online computer networks. The IoMT can help monitor, inform and notify not only care-givers, but provide healthcare providers with actual data to identify healthcare issues before they become critical.
Predictive analytics uses data from IoMT as well as data from a variety of health and social care services to assess where intervention strategies can be introduced to prevent future problems in healthcare systems.
Real-time healthcare monitoring has the potential to revolutionise patient home care by reducing the risks and costs involved with hospital readmissions. It allows patients and carers to easily record data of their care at home. Remote, monitoring care managers can now view vital signs, ensure that healthcare instructions are being followed plus respond quickly to matters requiring immediate attention.
Constant data analysis and monitoring of systematic processes within hospitals can help monitor and perhaps prevent fraud, waste and exploitation of existing systems.
2. Artificial Intelligence
Artificial intelligence gives machines and robots the ability to exhibit logic or make decisions in line with that of a human being. In healthcare, artificial intelligence is soon becoming a valuable, efficient assistant, especially in the decision making process for diagnosis and prescriptions.
Currently there are around 800 medications and vaccines available for cancer treatment. A doctor will take hours to comb through vast amounts of medications available to pick the right medication for each patient. These systems can perform this process in seconds.
In radiology, AI technology can intelligently scan x-rays to look out for abnormalities at a faster rate than the human eye.
3. Telemedicine and Health Apps
Telemedicine is where patients access healthcare services through mobile apps and video chats. Patients can access quality healthcare advise on their phone before they go through the time consuming task of seeing a doctor. They reduce demand for primary care while enjoying a quality, convenient service at the same time. YourMD is just one app that allows users to access safe, medical advice before seeking out a GP.
4. Wearables and IoT
Wearables and IoT devices are technologies attached to everyday items of clothing and accessories. These devices can monitor heart rate, fitness levels and check blood pressure. Sleep apps, fitness apps and apps measuring glucose, blood pressure and insulin levels are just some examples where real-time health monitoring can take place.
Some of these apps, like Fitbit, are manufactured and used by private companies, yet health organisations, including doctors, hospitals and health insurance companies, are the most trusted when referring wearables to their customers.
5. 3D Printing
3D printing uses layering techniques to produce real-life, 3D, solid objects from a digital file. It is used to print 3D prosthetics, skin for burn victims, splints for children and even organs (although this is still at an early stage of development). The current list of 6500 people in the UK waiting for organs may grow shorter as this revolutionary technology continues to develop.
Both the demand for quality public health plus the advances in technology are accelerating at high speed and will continue to do so for years to come. In the last two and a half years, the number of health apps has more than doubled to 100,000. It is high time we connect these pieces together. Healthcare and innovation can both work hand in hand to achieve this. Luckily, NHS England’s digital strategy, launched in February 2017, fuses demand for healthcare with innovative technologies – allowing for real transformation to take place.
Let us hope that technological innovation will continue to reimagine the healthcare system so that one day we no longer have to stress over the issue of funding.