The impact of technology on the healthcare industry is a hot topic at the moment. With an industry in desperate need of responding to the increasing demand for resources, there is a growing interest in how we can leverage digital technologies to help alleviate some of the pressure. The first half of this year alone saw the largest amount invested in healthtech companies globally, with a whopping $26.9BN injected into developing innovations within the sector.
We recently attended the Giant Health event here in London, which got us thinking about the power of technology in solving some of healthcare’s biggest challenges.
Fragmented healthcare data
Our healthcare system is plagued by an extremely fragmented data ecosystem. An individual patient will have their health data split amongst service providers, including, but not restricted to, hospitals, GP clinics, pharmacies and insurance providers, many of which do not have the right systems in place to effectively share data with each other. This makes it incredibly difficult for a patient to get full access to, and have complete transparency of their own health records.
Now more than ever, there is a need to connect these disparate data sources, which will significantly increase interoperability and portability. Some businesses are working hard to achieve this accessibility by creating the parameters for patients to unify their own data in one place, enabling private sharing with healthcare practitioners and other relevant organisations. digi.me and Evergreen Life are examples of companies who are already empowering patients with ownership of their own information.
digi.me aims to accelerate accessibility by putting data in the hands of individuals. An individual can import data from a variety of sources, including medical records, into their app. With all their data in one place, it gives a person the power to decide what data to share and who to share it with.Evergreen Life offers a similar proposition giving people ownership of their own records and enabling them to share it with whoever they want. In the future, these types of health data ownership models will enable healthcare providers to offer more personalised patient services, such as AI-fueled digital coaching. Furthermore, data sharing could help fuel new waves of research that are much more representative, with individuals easily contributing their health data in real time to organisations running studies.
The NHS is under increasing pressure
An ageing population combined with the rise of chronic conditions is putting an increased strain on the NHS and other health services. Over the coming years there will be diminishing resources accessible to patients in need, including less contact time with healthcare practitioners. In light of this, it becomes essential to empower patients to be more accountable for their own health by encouraging better self-management. This will ultimately improve patient outcomes and decrease unnecessary usage of NHS resources.
On a positive note, there are already businesses out there that have designed exciting ways to engage patients directly, or via practitioners, to manage their own health.
HealthUnlocked is a social network for connecting individuals with similar conditions and needs via communities. Their aim is to build a network where patients can support each other through forums and user-generated content. They’ve also integrated into primary care, so healthcare practitioners can onboard their patients into the network and track improvement of outcomes.
Emis Health, delivering medical software solutions, have created EMIS Web, an app library for GPs to electronically recommend digital therapeutic (DTx) apps to patients. Their aim is to give GPs the tools to empower their patients to manage their health conditions. Engagement from a patient when a GP prescribes a DTx is significantly better, and this raises the likelihood of better outcomes.
In the future, these types of products should enable healthcare practitioners to not only remotely monitor patients response to treatment, but through integration with connected wearable devices, to also provide virtual remote care to patients, all of which should help to improve outcomes.
Patient care lacks a personal touch
The future of healthcare will be significantly more value-based, putting increased focus on quality of care and patient outcomes. Evidence has shown that patient outcomes could be drastically improved if healthcare services were more personalised. However, this kind of person-centered care is difficult, as it requires a lot of time and a significant amount of patient data. With diminishing resources and fragmented health data, healthcare practitioners are currently not given the tools to provide more personalised care to their patients.
Amongst others, one company that is tackling this problem is ReMeLife. They are digitising person-centered care, from diagnosis to end of life, via an app that the patient uses to complete activities and the data captured is given to their private carer. This data is used to achieve better patient and carer engagement. The proposition is based on the power of knowing the person and how this can help to create a relationship of trust between patient and carer, which often leads to better outcomes.
In the future, there is an opportunity to give hospitals and healthcare service providers access to this data, so that practitioners can support their patients with a more tailored and personalised approach. The data could also contribute to an individual’s health insurance policy, by personalising their coverage and reimbursement models to their needs.
The prescription ordering process is inefficient
With rising levels of chronic illness in the UK, there is an increase in the number of annual prescription orders. The current prescription ecosystem however remains very fragmented and still widely paper based. Research indicates that ordering and getting a prescription is an incredibly stressful, manual and time consuming process for consumers. With growing demand for prescriptions, there is a need to create a more convenient ecosystem.
There are a number of start-ups that are modernising this process by creating digital business models for how customers interact with their pharmacy and get access to their prescriptions. One example is Healthera, who are digitising pharmacies by connecting patients with pharmacies and GP prescribers. Their app enables patients to remotely place prescription orders with their GPs. It then connects them with their local pharmacy that has a guaranteed delivery service. They’ve also developed a smart workflow with the NHS that facilitates GP prescription work by centralising the process.
These types of business models are better equipping healthcare systems to deal with bigger prescription demands and presents a further opportunity for businesses to offer patients different delivery methods that can further aid in prescription compliance.
It is clear that our world is being disrupted by the influx of digital technologies and their impact on the state of different industries. Healthcare is one of the sectors experiencing the biggest level of change and we are beginning to see the positive benefits this has for patients, practitioners and healthcare service providers. However, this is only the beginning and new digital technologies, such as digital therapeutics, wearables, and data unification platforms, have the potential to significantly reduce strain on overburdened healthcare systems by empowering patients to own their health journey and better manage their conditions.
If you want to continue to explore what the future of healthcare could look like, or improve your digital offering, get in touch with us today!