The evolution of healthcare is happening before our eyes – new technology is being introduced all the time, alongside bold scientific discoveries that are taking modern medicine to whole new levels.
Just earlier this year, the University of St. Andrews (along with the Harvard Medical School) engineered brand new fibre-optic technology that promises to heal wounds quicker, whilst a massive £130 million has also been invested into the NHS for brand-new radiotherapy machines.
With so many advancements, it pays to keep a finger on the pulse and be informed as to what might come next. With this in mind, we pulled together a collection of emerging technologies that have the potential to transform how the UK public receive healthcare.
1. From the comfort of your own home…
In the immediate future, teleconferencing looks set to revolutionise healthcare. With video calls, people can undergo consultations from the comfort of their own front room, making it easier for those who cannot reach a local walk-in centre.
While the technology is already there, the concept of virtual GP appointments is still very much in its infancy. There are companies testing the service out and seeing positive results in the process.
One such company is Jim Jam, who offer online physiotherapy sessions through remote assessments. We spoke to CEO Chris Kennelly to find out more.
“Teleconferencing or video call is here already, is growing in its scale and scope of service use and has a lot of interest both inside and outside the NHS. How it’s affecting healthcare now is largely around speed and convenience for patients and clinicians.
“For example – our patients want to be able to see a physio at a time and place that suits them, so being able to see a physio today, from your own home or office and not have to travel is great. If you then extend this scenario to people living/working in remote geographical locations, the impact is far greater.”
Longer term, Jim Jam hopes to alleviate some of the huge strain felt by the National Health Service.
“The potential future impact is much, much bigger. If more people are having remote assessments, then the NHS needs less infrastructure. That means smaller and fewer buildings which has a financial and environmental impact – not to mention the reduced carbon impact of all these patients not having to drive to appointments anymore.
“Clinical capacity also increases because clinicians aren’t travelling as much, meaning more time for clinical function.”
Chris Kennelly concluded with the following.
“Whilst I’m hugely enthusiastic about the prospects of video call technology within healthcare, we must also be realistic. This will not replace same-room consultations entirely and we will always need this, but video call technology offers us a way of better utilising precious clinical resources and not just through reducing costs, but also improving access and quality at the same time. We’re some way off this, but it does look like It is achievable and quickly.”
As patients become more informed, the technology moves in tandem. Commenting on the digitalisation of healthcare is Joe Bloom, entrepreneur and founder of online wellbeing start-up Mentovo.
“In this modern age individuals are not only more educated about their own health but are inquisitive to the learning process about their own wellbeing. Giving the public the tools to manage their own wellbeing is going to be a priority of future healthcare systems.
“Standards are changing as some public health systems transition into digital systems to allow for this, but are very slow on the uptake with private practices appearing to offer a more tailored service.”
2. Your smartphone isn’t just for selfies
It feels like there is an app for everything these days, and while some are more useful than others this is definitely one you’ll want to note down.
Founded by Stephen Bourke, Echo is an app which takes the age-old process of picking up your prescription and places it completely in the digital age. Echo takes care of your repeat prescriptions, taking the hassle out of having to physically manage your medication by providing a platform for you to do it yourself.
Again, this is all about patient empowerment and putting healthcare and its processes into the hands of the individual.
We spoke to Stephen to find out how Echo came to be, and the problems it aims to solve in the long run.
“My co-founder and I both take medication for long-term conditions and felt that the process of ordering repeat prescriptions every two months to be fragmented, confusing and a chore. So, on a blank piece of paper, we mapped out what the ideal service should look like. Then we built it.
“The problem Echo solved is medication adherence – between a third and half of all meds aren’t taken as directed. Our goal is to maximise possession and nudge patients towards better compliance, using affordable and ubiquitous smartphone technology. This will reduce waste with respect to GP appointments and medication, and improve outcomes in the long run.”
And so, Echo was born. An app that came directly from personal experience, it is now supported by NHS professionals and is a must-have app for those who find repeat prescriptions laborious. Stephen ended with the following comment.
“We have had some fantastic support from GPs, pharmacists and nurses, as well as people within NHS digital and BSA. We have NHS clinicians on the team, which is important when it comes to navigating a complex system.”
Making patients’ lives easier is a recurring trend within tech solutions – this next one caters for those undergoing cancer treatments, streamlining the process through digitalisation.
3. Easier referral for radiotherapy patients
Cievert aim to make the referral process as convenient as possible for patients undergoing cancer treatment, providing online referral platforms to 15% of radiotherapy departments with a project named ‘Casper’.
Commenting on the background of Cievert and what it offers is Business Development Manager David Birchmore.
Cievert offers a secure, intuitive, web-based referral platform allowing clinicians to refer their patients from any NHS clinic in the country. Referrals are immediate, secure and adhere to locally defined clinical pathways to ensure consistency.
“Radiotherapy is a complex clinical pathway that requires input from multiple staff groups to deliver the patient through to treatment. With a traditional paper system, this is a linear pathway; so the last person in the process is not alerted to the patient until everyone else has actioned their own work.
“With Casper, once the form is submitted it is available instantly for any staff member to work on in parallel thus having a huge impact on waiting times. One of our customers decreased the time of their referral pathway by 13 days with the help of Casper.”
David had a few final words on the longevity of the company, as well as a couple of predictions for the future.
“At Cievert, we see the future of technology as empowering the patient to better self-manage health complaints whilst at the same time facilitating rapid access to expert health care when required.
“Too often, patients are followed up routinely because the technology and infrastructure is not in place to support and monitor the patient remotely. If it were we would be seeing patients followed up at the time and place that is most appropriate rather than ‘in six weeks in outpatients’.
“There will also always be a requirement to make processes more efficient and cost effective”.
4. Fine-tuning your food experience – making hospitals more hospitable
If you’re not too fond of hospital food, this bit of technology is for you. Kafoodle Care is a cloud-based personal nutrition care plan designed for use in hospitals, care homes and schools. It takes note of all allergies, as well as nutritional and medical needs to offer a tailored service to patients.
Speaking about Kafoodle is its co-founder Tarryn Gorre, who shared her insight on Kafoodle’s intentions within healthcare.
“The idea for Kafoodle Kare came from witnessing first-hand how poorly hospitals were catering to patients with specific dietary needs – whether it be diabetes, a food allergy or a personal preference.
“Some patients, especially children, spend substantial amounts of time in hospital and there seemed a clear opportunity to make their experience with food whilst in care a better one. This, with growing government legislation around food, gave us the idea of Kafoodle Kare.
“Patient care plans are supposed to monitor nutrition and dietary intakes; however even electronic care plans rely on visual cross checking to spot allergic and medical reactions. Food intolerances are rarely catered for, meals lack nutrition and taste, and there is no quality standard benchmarked across healthcare providers.”
Kafoodle is also greatly invested in taking some of the strain from the NHS, and improving the economic situation. Tarryn had a little more to say about the hospitality start-up.
“Kafoodle Kare will be a practical solution for the hundreds of hospitals and residential homes that struggle to provide the 2.8 million meals a day needed for patients with up to as many as 50 different dietary requirements.
“Currently 30 million meals are wasted each year at a cost of £230 million at a time when the NHS needs to make £22 billion savings.”
5. Blood filtration system to combat malaria
This is a particularly bold, ingenuous solution that aims to surpass existing malaria treatments and help the more vulnerable sufferers with severe cases.
Founded by Dr. George Frodsham in 2015, MediSieve works by removing malaria-infected cells directly from patients’ blood. MediSieve hope that its technology can be used to treat a wide range of blood-borne diseases in the future, from sepsis to leukaemia.
We spoke with Dr. George Frodsham, who gave some insightful comment on the kind of issues MediSieve looks to address within healthcare. He explained how MediSieve is a response to existing malaria treatments.
“Typically, treatments for blood-borne diseases are pharmaceutical drugs that aim to kill the disease-causing pathogens. Across a range of diseases, these drugs frequently have a number of problems:
– They are non-specific, and target ‘good’ things as well as ‘bad things’.
– They can cause severe side-effects, sometimes even fatal.
– The drugs can be very expensive.
– They are slow-acting.
“MediSieve’s approach is to remove the pathogens rather than killing them. In this way, even when the MediSieve Filter is used alongside drugs, many of the problems of drugs are alleviated:
– The pathogens are eliminated much faster.
– There are no side-effects (and side effects of drugs are reduced).
– MediSieve doesn’t harm healthy blood components.
– It can remove things that drugs cannot target”
“Our ambition is to provide a new tool to enable doctors to remove practically anything directly from the bloodstream. In the long-term, that could mean that our technology could be used to treat a huge range of different diseases affecting patients all around the world.”
These are exciting times, not only for tech but in terms of what it can bring to healthcare. The solutions here span a broad range, yet they all look to transform how care is offered, and how it is received. Here’s to the future…
As a leading provider of X-ray protection and radiology supplies, Rothband has always been focused on bringing forth new innovations that enhance the patient’s experience. You can read more about our story here.