The NHS is currently undertaking a £40 million three-year programme to bring the “Internet of Things” into healthcare. Focusing on simple yet effective solutions that can be easily adopted by the masses, digital health is set to revolutionise healthcare services for both patients and providers. “Older patients and people with long term conditions and mental health problems will be among the first to benefit from a major new drive to modernise how the NHS delivers care” – NHS England January 2016.
Here are 3 examples of existing solutions where we can learn about the benefits and potential challenges faced when scaling up these solutions.
Electronic Prescription Service
The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) allows prescriptions to be sent direct to pharmacies through IT systems used in GP surgeries. Eventually EPS will remove the need for most paper prescriptions.
- Patients can collect repeat prescriptions directly from a pharmacy without visiting a GP
- paper prescriptions will become obsolete so can’t be misplaced
- Patients will spend less time waiting in the pharmacy
- The service is reliable, secure and confidential
- It could cause confusion as the patient isn’t given a physical prescription. In many cases the carer and patient use the paper version to easily manage medications in the home
- Less digitally able patients could find the process more stressful as they may perceive less control in the process of ordering medication
- Any issues resulting in prescription details being incorrect or not sent to the pharmacy could result in wasted trips for the patient. This could be the result of human error in the system
Appointment booking software
Patients are now able to access their medical records, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions from their electronic devices with apps such as Patient Access.
- Allows patients to access local practice services online
- Reduces the need to make phone calls to the surgery
- Repeat prescriptions can also be booked online using the same system
- Convincing patients that the service is safe is a challenge for service providers
- Not all current web services have good enough design for a good user-experience
- There are still a number of users (healthcare providers and patients) who might not have access to a computer or lack the knowledge to use the service
- Some online appointment booking services require large browsers rather than mobile or browsers on tablets
Wearable Technology for Diabetes Patients
K’Track Glucose from PKvitality is the first wearable tracker that allows diabetics to self-monitor their glucose levels without the need for cumbersome and painful blood-based tests. This sort of technology gives patients control over their condition and allows for more discreet management.
Although diabetes affects 1 in 11 people in the world, it’s reported that 80% of people on treatment do not monitor their blood sugar often enough. The K’Track Glucose is a solution designed to tackle the reasons why patients might be neglecting their health. The wearable fits in with a more modern patient routine. It’s simple to use, discreet, sports-friendly, painless and allows for easy monitoring on the go.
- Replace the current method of pen-like prick tests which are easy to forget and don’t provide newly-diagnosed patients with much information
- Wrist-band devices are less invasive than needles
- The device links easily to the patient’s smartphone so they can monitor and keep a record of their blood sugar levels
- Still in the testing stage so reliability is yet to be measured
- Inconsistent adoption of technologies from the healthcare providers. Many IoT and wearable tech produce personalised data that could prove useful in managing health however this data is rarely used in consultations.
All three of these examples demonstrate the significantly positive effect that such simple solutions can have on providing patient empowerment. The impact of patient confidence over time far outweighs the initial launch costs. Such solutions should ease the pressure on healthcare resources anyway (less hospital visits required, less time spent on unnecessary phone calls etc) which will also reduce costs. The challenge lies in changing up the current structure and format to provide ability to scale up the service, provide training and ongoing support.
Bitjam are currently working with healthcare and education providers researching and exploring ways in which technology can be deployed at scale.
It’s never been easier for patients to be more connected to healthcare solutions. Learning about disease or making a doctor’s appointment can be done at the click of a button. Cutting-edge technologies are being conjured up every day, paving the way for the future of revolutionary healthcare. Yet there’s still one huge challenge: late adopters. Those usually of an older generation – although not limited to – who are change-resistant to modern technology.
Changing a Mindset
They may dislike it, lack the time to understand it, be wary of it or simply don’t realise the benefits. Ironically these are people who could benefit the most from the assistance of healthcare technology. While ground-breaking research and dramatic ideas and inventions help the system to plan for the future, if there are still patients resisting even the most straight-forward digital solutions, growth and development will be slow.
The issue isn’t that of user experience or reliability, since the tech is relatively simple and straightforward to use. The real change needs to be made socially and culturally. Educating patients so that digital healthcare solutions become acceptable and adapted in to their routine with minimal upheaval.
To create genuine harmony between patients, providers and digital healthcare systems, emphasis needs to be on patient empowerment. Showing them how to gain the easiest access to their information without causing unnecessary stress or concern. This will be a challenge for GP’s and other healthcare providers as they will have to incorporate this extra time into the patient appointment or other method of contact. It will be the responsibility of the provider to ensure the patient leaves feeling confident.
Focusing on Adoption
Technology is fast-advancing, with some complex research being carried out that focuses on the future of healthcare technology in 10-15 years time. While this is exciting, Bitjam are equally championing the “boring” tech – so described because it’s been accessible for a number of years now and most people are already using and relying on it everyday – such as messaging and GPS. Even mobile web browsers are a vehicle for application-like experiences.
Ubiquitous technologies can be used to develop large-scale solutions that engage a wide range of users and importantly increases adoption with healthcare providers. While it’s exciting to exist on the fringes of innovation with technology it’s important that existing health tech solutions work well, are scalable and are adopted widely. The skill and innovation is understanding how to get the maximum value from these technologies and deploy them effectively.
It’s predicted that global smartphone use will reach 5.1 billion in 2017. This means that access to information and learning has never been greater, and tech companies are understanding the need to use technology for social good -a little like superheroes! A good example of this is Facebook, and their recent partnership with tech companies in a bid to bring internet access to every single person on earth. In 30 or so years of existence, it could be argued that the Internet has become a basic human need, as access to greater knowledge and learning is considered vital to human development.
A gadget smaller than the average adult human hand has given us connectivity to reach friends, family and strangers at the tap of a touchscreen. With the development of applications – many of which are free to use – smartphones have become instruments for creating monumental change for individuals, social groups, cultures and communities around the globe.
The encrypted messaging service WhatsApp is used to enable virtual surgeons to help barely-qualified practitioners at make-shift medical centres in Syria. Volunteer Doctors have joined the group chat to give advice and guide life-saving surgery to civilians 6000 miles away. Both in the developed and emerging world, virtual Doctors are expected to become more commonplace. Through the power of technology, healthcare will become accessible to people all over the world, who would not otherwise be able to get it. This will revolutionise the healthcare sector and create a higher standard of living worldwide. Mobile phones will be responsible for keeping whole populations healthy.
Education technology such as MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) are having an impact on both the developed and emerging worlds, as similarly, they provide an opportunity for free learning and development to anybody in the world. A recent Bitjam project – Destiny MOOCs – envision a future where all individuals, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality education, training and employment opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential.
Bitjam was created to be a part of this positive change. From geeking out combining art with technology to working with healthcare providers on important projects, using technology for social good is at the forefront of what we do. Our work with the public sector, including healthcare, charities and education, continues to inspire us as we’ve learnt about so many issues that affect many people around the world on a daily basis and had the chance to brainstorm with some incredible people to create simple technological solutions.
We’re waiting to help your project become the next big thing in technological advancement to solve important social issues. Bitjam could be the platform you need to succeed, by offering years of digital skill, technological know-how and experience working collaboratively with the public sector.