- 20 February 2017
- Posted in: Health & Social Care, Science & Technology
The UK is one of the world’s leading nations when it comes to online shopping. The online retail industry generated £114 billion in annual sales with over 80% of the population shopping online in 2015. So why has the retail industry embraced the digital opportunity?
Access to high speed internet across most parts of the country either in the form of broadband or mobile has allowed retailers to offer services that we couldn’t even imagine a couple of decades ago. From a single retailer, shoppers can compare products by price, feedback and delivery times from multiple suppliers. Goods can be tracked from the moment they are purchased to the point they are delivered, even allowing for on-the-fly changes to delivery location, time and the goods themselves.
Is this blog about retail or health?
For most of our lives our experience as patients hasn’t changed very much. The experience of visiting our GPs has been almost the same since we were children. The same could have been said for retail for a long time too, but as I’ve explained, retail changed by embracing technology. We’re all consumers but we’re all patients too. For most of us, our first experience in this world was in an NHS hospital, long before we ever spent our first pound. However, we’re no longer willing to settle for the status quo in healthcare, we’ve seen the benefits of digital technologies in other industries and we now have similar expectations as patients or carers for our elderly parents.
Technologies are now available to transform the way we interact with our healthcare providers but adoption of technology is the real challenge.
Changing the way we do things in healthcare both as patients and clinicians is not easy and won’t happen overnight. The NHS Sustainability and Transformation Plans (STPs) aim to harness the opportunities that digital offers but this will need to consider people just as much as technology and processes to succeed. If technology is to be widely adopted and ultimately improve outcomes then behaviour change is required of both patients and staff.
We are largely aware of how to change behaviour to improve our health, better diet and more exercise are just two examples. So why do so many people fail to make long term lifestyle changes? Why do 50% of patients fail to take their medication as prescribed? Historically, after being diagnosed with an illness, patients had little or no information about the journey that lay ahead. Patients may have been given a generic leaflet or directed to a website followed by occasional contact with their clinician. This is a completely different experience to what we’re now accustomed to in industries such as retail.
What if we could receive timely feedback on our progress, would it encourage us to continue with our prescribed treatment? Technology can help to deliver the timely information we need to better engage with our treatment.
Given our experiences in other industries, we are now increasingly demanding new products and services that will personalise the advice we receive. However, the technology must be designed and deployed with patients and clinicians in mind, otherwise poor user experience will hamper widespread adoption. Concerns around data privacy will require technology companies to work with patients and health providers to make sure they are informed about how and where their data is being used in order to build trust.
In the UK we have some great companies, large and small, developing products and services in health tech and we must provide a mechanism to enable widespread adoption of these products. To name a couple of examples:
• Digital Health.London is helping great tech ideas to reach the NHS with it’s acceleration programme;
• The AHSN network is identifying and spreading health innovation at pace and scale across England.
As part of the NHS five year forward view, seven test beds were announced to evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working which will help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home. Two of the seven test beds are using the Internet of Things to help people with long term conditions better manage their illness.
The West of England AHSN is currently running an Internet of Things test bed to help people with diabetes. A trial involving 12000 people with diabetes will turn traditional general advice into personalised suggestions to improve diet, physical activity and insulin management. Personalised insights from data collected through wearable technology will lead to better outcomes by encouraging people with diabetes to be more engaged with their condition. Diabetes consumes 10% of the entire NHS budget so better management of this condition will lead to cost savings for the NHS too.
On 2nd March I’ll be chairing the “DigiHealth UK: Enhancing the Patient’s Journey” event in Royal National Hotel, London and will be honoured to have a number of distinguished speakers who will provide deeper insights and best practices on the topics I have mentioned.
I look forward to seeing you there.
By Idris Jahn, Health Tech & Internet of Things Consultant