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How technology is defining the future of healthPublished 04/02/2019
It’s a problem as old as time… people often feel threatened by the pace of technological change. This unease has many precedents; from the Luddites smashing the looms during the Industrial Revolution to our own quandaries of living in a ‘post-truth’ world – littered with the digital detritus from the fallout of fake news, Cambridge Analytica and almost daily Facebook scandals.
It’s understandable that we’ve perhaps become wary, suspicious even, of technological ‘progress’. But in doing so we mustn’t overlook the multitudes of tech solutions being developed with a real altruistic, social purpose. Tech for good.
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NHS England recently announced it will be recruiting more than 20,000 support staff, including pharmacists and paramedics, to alleviate pressure on busy GPs. This comes as part of the recently announced 10-year NHS plan, which also focusses on healthtech with the promise of giving all patients access to digital GP consultations.
Enabling patients to instantly connect with GPs over their smartphone or tablet is at the heart of GP at Hand, an NHS backed App that has surged in popularity since it’s launch. It now boasts over 41,000 users, with 8,000 signing up in the last three months alone. The new NHS App is also being rolled out across the UK this year, which will allow patients to book and manage their GP appointments, view their medical record and order repeat prescriptions – anywhere and at any time. Whilst boosting convenience and providing wider access to services, such Apps are helping those patients that may struggle to physically get to their GP.
Prevention is better than cure
Tech giants are also playing their part in revolutionising healthcare. IBM’s research team are developing a new AI model that will help understand each patient’s personal conditions and, more importantly, how they will likely develop. A predictive approach like this will give doctors more detail about the progression of disorders in real-time – allowing them to spot serious signs early to prevent, and ultimately cure, conditions before they take hold.
Microsoft has also made strides with wearable technology in the fight against Parkinson’s disease. It’s prototype ‘Emma Watch’ helps people with the condition write more clearly by emitting vibrations sent to the brain that, in turn, control tremors. Such approaches, along with advances like VR helping to train surgeons and 3D printing creating personalised prosthetics, give real-world benefits to both patients and healthcare professionals.
Change is a constant. Despite (warranted) concerns, the view of the pervasive nature of today’s technology is the result of a minority of bad actors. Advances in healthtech are already making a positive impact for societies – saving lives and helping us to live healthier for longer; both today and into the future.