Health, social care and medical research are all witnessing profound change at the hands of technology. Could digitalised healthcare help to transform the provision of services?

With the National Health turning 70 in July it will provide an opportunity to celebrate one of the most enduring institutions to have been created by the UK since 1945, but it is also likely to highlight growing concerns that an increasing number of key services are being overwhelmed in the face of rising demand from an ageing population.

The extra billions recently announced by the UK Government will help, but health and social care services are likely to remain under unprecedented pressure, despite figures, supplied by the King’s Fund, which shows that healthcare is taking up an increasing proportion of the UK’s resources accounting for around 8% of GDP, compared to 3.4% fifty years ago.

Could technology square this circle? Many believe it could, delivering a more modern, efficient and responsive health service that’s better prepared for future challenges, but in truth, the challenges facing the health service can’t be solved by technology alone.

The digital health landscape is changing rapidly and as a global market is expected to be worth £400bn by 2025.

That rapid growth provides opportunities for innovative solutions that could transform the delivery of services and tackle some of the health challenges facing healthcare systems.

For example, the NHS deals with over 700,000 patients every day. Over 18million Britons are thought to have chronic health conditions and a quarter of the UK’s population is set to be over 65 by 2040.

“There are numerous successful tech innovations happening at the frontline of health and social care,” according to the Institute of Public Policy Research, “but the current under-utilisation of both medicinal and digital technology means that there is a real opportunity to unleash a new wave of innovation that could have a revolutionary impact on how care is delivered, and how patients interact with professionals and manage their own health and care.”

From opening up new possibilities to treat patients remotely, as well as improving patient flow through digital appointments and access to medical records, to the sharing of information between emergency services, the opportunities to use technology to improve health outcomes are profound.

Wearable technology could provide a vital component in solving many of these problems, reducing the demands on family doctors and other primary care providers. Wearable technology has the potential to reduce hospital admissions and bed stays and could end up being placed right at the front of the patient ‘pathway’ into the NHS.

The problem with the greater adoption of wearable technology is that among NHS trusts, some 80% are unprepared for the impact of wearable technology.

Practitioners are also unwilling to use it unless there is evidence of benefits.

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