Our population is ageing. Not only has the number of UK residents aged 90 almost tripled since the early 1980s, medical treatment for long term conditions is continually improving. As a result, the pressure on the NHS is constantly increasing, and all at a time when the Government is having to tighten its spending belt.
However, in the midst of this, we’re seeing something quite remarkable – a technology-led reinvention of our healthcare system. Powered by innovation, cutting-edge technology now sits at the heart of prevention and early intervention, rather than cure. In the past few years we’ve seen video conferences enable remote diagnoses while data continues to deliver greater transparency when it comes to patient behaviour. What’s more, day-to-day healthcare has hit the headlines with wearable devices and fitness apps now driving consumer awareness. The challenge for healthcare organisations and professionals now is driving this momentum to ensure continuous improvement.
At Pathway, we pride ourselves on using information and data to assess, diagnose and support vulnerable people before their health needs escalate. Our ability to provide comprehensive care has changed beyond recognition thanks to technology. Today, wireless sensors in the home and wearable devices find patterns in our customers’ behaviour, we then set parameters and tolerances, looking for any deviation which could be indicative of wider issues. For example, a deterioration in trips to the kitchen could indicate mobility and nutrition concerns, an increase in trips to the bathroom could indicate continence issues. Of course some variations to these patterns could require escalation into hospital or a doctor’s appointment but for the most part, the carer or next of kin is alerted and the problem is resolved by a phone call or a quick visit by one of our team. Our wearable technologies monitor heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen levels, blood sugar, stress and peak flow. We also use patch technology to monitor hydration levels, which is of significant concern to the elderly.
However, whilst health data is opening up a whole world of new opportunities, we also need to consider the implications to data ownership.
Our customers own their own data, we are the custodians and conduit to allow them to share it with whomever they choose. This isn’t something that sits naturally with the data model the NHS uses, where the GP’s health record is the definitive source of a patient’s wellbeing. We’ve made sure we can integrate with the major records systems but as personal health technology continues to evolve, the industry will need to examine how patient-owned health records sit alongside those of a GP. The availability of such comprehensive data sets also poses questions around the jurisdiction of GPs. At what point do data-informed individuals assume greater control over their own health choices and when should they overrule a GP’s prescribed course of action?
The future of healthcare tech is unknown but it’s clear that it will continue to disrupt. As a health organisation, our challenge is to utilise these advancements to provision the best possible care to all our patients.