Healthcare in the UK is under enormous pressure right now. The Red Cross has gone as far to warn that the NHS is facing a “humanitarian crisis.” Brexit is not helping matters, with nurses and other healthcare staff from Europe returning to the continent.
At the moment, the government appears to be pinning their hopes on GPs and hospital staff working even longer hours. Similar announcements over the last few years have not gone down well, and the public won’t put up with austerity-inspired stop gap measures for much longer. The NHS can’t keep operating at breaking point indefinitely.
Thankfully, behind the immediate crisis, plans are already in progress to transform healthcare in the UK. Care delivery is being redesigned, through 50 Vanguards, within the framework of the Five Year Forward View. Digital transformation is already playing a key role in cost savings and the redesign of healthcare in the UK, with the following technologies an integral part of these changes.
#1: Digital Care
Smartphones are a normal part of life, and few people would consider them new, but they are yet to make a noticeable impact on healthcare in this country. We aren’t alone. Other countries are also struggling with this digital health challenge. The NHS App Library, designed to curate the best health apps, has not had much success.
And yet, there are hundreds of thousands of healthcare apps covering everything from anxiety to insomnia. Not to mention, thousands of IT and digital specialists in the NHS and Government Digital Services. App store rankings and user reviews are a good starting point for selecting the most effective tools on the market. A public campaign could identify a crowd-sourced list of apps, with a secondary list of apps and content that is needed to more effectively support NHS services.
For example, smartphones can also serve as an extension of hospital aftercare. Solutions are already being devised to monitor glucose levels so that those with type 1 diabetes can have insulin delivery monitored by a smartphone. Numerous other private companies and charities are working on digital healthcare delivery in every field of medicine.
#2: Machine Learning
Healthcare organisations require an enormous amount of knowledge and data to operate. AI & Machine Learning solutions are being deployed to see patterns in messy data.
IBM’s Watson and Google’s DeepMind are already attempting to make sense of vast amounts of unstructured data sets, such as clinical guides and treatment protocols. In time, AI systems could find ways to improve care for patients suffering all kinds of illnesses, including cancer and Alzheimer's.
#3: Peer-to-Peer Support
Peer support networks are growing in popularity. From Groups on Facebook to dedicated networks, such as MedHelp, PatientsLikeMe and HealthUnlocked, social networks are making it easier for patients to connect with others going through similar challenges.
These formal and informal networks are taking some of the strain off the NHS, with support and input provided when required. Patients can also access vast collections of treatment information, making these online communities invaluable resources.
#4: Box DICOM
Healthcare organisations are slowly embracing cloud technologies. Cloud storage provider, Box, have created an FDA-approved solution for healthcare providers. Doctors, consultants and GP’s can upload and share DICOM files (X-rays, CT scans, Ultrasounds and MRIs) securely, on a HIPPA compliment cloud platform.
With the Box DICOM solution, files can be securely viewed on any device and browser, making it easier to share scans with patients and other medical practitioners.
#5: Cost-effective Research
Peer-to-peer platforms and smartphones are also transforming medical research. Collecting research on paper was a time-consuming task. Increasingly, patients on clinical trials and others asked to record conditions and treatment plans were giving up taking notes. Low patient adherence is negatively impacting research results.
However, with the solution in our hands, healthcare organisations are taking action. PatientsLikeMe has already been cited in over 70 peer-reviewed published studies. Other platforms and apps are joining in, contributing patient data to studies for every kind of disease. This information is proving invaluable for the development of new drug and other treatment plans, according to King’s Fund research.
Healthcare is changing. The public, the government and healthcare professionals need it to change. Current service and delivery models are under far too much strain. Technology is not the Holy Grail. Numerous things need to change, but technology can and already is contributing to the overall transformation of healthcare in the UK.
To explore in more detail how UKN Group are providing IT solutions for healthcare providers, contact me on +44 (0)845 643 6060 or email Chris.Telfer@ukngroup.com