Technology that is changing the face of first line healthcare
There is no denying that mobile technology has transformed the way we work and live today. The public have already been embracing technologies including wearable fitness monitors and health apps. In order to contend in a highly competitive marketplace the healthcare sector is also beginning to embrace these technologies to improve their responsiveness, efficiencies and services.
The NHS has lagged behind other sectors in the adoption of technologies and offering digital access to services, but there the healthcare industry is set to change drastically. In part this is due to the NHS 10-year plan to make digital health services mainstream. There has also been a push from the government and policymakers to see greater use of technology in the NHS to cope with the demand on services. Patients are also demanding convenience and efficiency.
As different technologies unite to transform the way things are done, from mobile technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and other emerging technologies in healthcare, this post explores six human health and medicine evolution examples that are changing the face of first line healthcare.
Practice management software
This is an IT tool that can empower patients, generate savings and increase efficiency in the day-to-day operations of a healthcare setting. Features that this type of software offers includes:
- appointment scheduling
- letters via an app
- data capture
- Electronic health record system (EHR).
Appointment scheduling. This enables patients to book and confirm appointments and when you consider the number of missed appointments, which according to NHS England https://www.england.nhs.uk/2019/01/missed-gp-appointments-costing-nhs-millions/ is 15 million general practice appointments at a cost to the NHS at more than £216 million, is an area is urgent need of streamlining. Practice management software tools such as the Zesty portal app https://www.zesty.co.uk/enterprise which enable patients to book and confirm appointments could considerably relieve the burden for staff and cut costs dramatically. Zesty we've been working hard with a group of NHS trusts to digitally transform outpatient appointment management.
Letters via an app. Providing patients access to letters online and giving them an ‘opt out’ option of receiving paper letters, can streamline the healthcare document management system. A letter app gives people easy and instant access to their information and can be stored and retrieved easily across different devices and platforms.
Data capture. Capturing all information from patients at any point of contact, including patient demographics.
Electronic health record system. This is a digital version of a patient’s chart, real-time records that make information instantly available whilst secure to authorised users. These records can contain a patient’s entire medical history including diagnoses, medications, immunisations, allergies and so on. Automation and streamlining the care of patients across all healthcare departments will revolutionise both the speed at which secondary care can be implemented and the patient experience.
Remote care and telemedicine
With current GP waiting times of 10 days and A&E departments at breaking point, remote monitoring and telemedicine is playing a vital role in the future of these services. In fact, they are increasingly playing a bigger role in the delivery of healthcare, whereas it used to be a few companies offering these types of services to connect specialists with patients who were in more remote or rural locations, we are now seeing an expanding number of services being offered via telemedicine and video conferencing.
One company looking to revolutionise the way paediatric care is delivered in the UK is the Children’s E-Hospital, they provide an on-line service providing expert paediatric advice to parents’ and their children at the click of a button, with the aim to improve access to specialist medical care.
Through their HOTPOD® app and website they allow subscribers to measure six key pieces of physical data: pulse rate; oxygen levels; temperature; breathing rate; perfusion and mental state, these are used to determine if a child is unwell. They can determine if a child needs to go to see a GP or A&E. It can also be used to monitor children who may not need to be admitted to hospital but can be monitored to ensure they are safe.
The Children's e-Hospital is an innovative on-line service providing expert Paediatric advice to parents’ and their children at the click of a button.
A US company offering remote monitoring is QARDIO, it offers a platform for healthcare professionals and their patients. It allows patients to measure their vitals, including blood pressure, ECG and weight at home and for healthcare professionals to remotely monitor this data which is automatically analysed on one dashboard. https://www.getqardio.com/qardiomd-heart-health/
Patients with a chronic disease and their multi-disciplinary healthcare teams can be better empowered to manage their health through digital platforms such as the one US based Wellsmith offers. The digital platform has actionable ways to guide people’s health care through personalised plans via their healthcare provider. The healthcare provider can monitor and manage the care for their chronic disease populations with data connected health devices like scales, blood pressure cuffs and glucose readers. https://wellsmith.com/health-systems/
Diagnostic tools in rare disease
It is estimated that 350 million people worldwide have a rare disease, there are approximately 7,000 different types of rare diseases and disorders, with more constantly being discovered.
In the UK it takes about 4.5 years to diagnose a rare disease and misdiagnoses are common with high costs incurred during years of misdiagnosis, (read our recent report on the cost and resource impact that this has here).
Here at Mendelian we are providing applications to improve and streamline diagnostic rates. We provide doctors an accurate search engine mapping phenotypes and genotypes specifically designed for those working in rare disease diagnosis. Doctors enter a patient’s symptoms and clinical features. This then provides a semantic analysis in seconds giving a likely causative diseases genes and mutations output.
Another research project, Minerva & Me from the University of Oxford, helps to ‘find people with rare diseases through facial recognition machine learning. Doctors know that people’s faces can sometimes have changes that might tell they have a certain disease. This project is teaching computers to look at photographs of peoples’ faces to help find these diseases better and faster. They provide a patient engagement portal for people around the world to engage directly with research aiding computer learning to diagnose diseases from photographs.
Solutions for management of rare disease patients
Rare diseases often require complex management with clinical expertise limited to specialist centres located far away from patients. Remote patient monitoring allows easier access for patients and their healthcare provider. It also provides real time tracking of side effects, activity and other vital signs, ease of feedback and data capture.
Medopad is one provider offering customised solutions for rare disease patients and healthcare providers as do PhenoTips who offer a software tool for collecting and analysing phenotypic information of patients with genetic disorders. Menopad provides an app that links patients to their care team, helping to reduce the number of hospital visits that would otherwise be required. This eliminates travel time as well as increases the quality and frequency of the data provided to the healthcare professional, which can improve the overall care for the patient as it provides the care team insight in to the real-world patient journey, allowing them to provide more timely treatment.
Improving your patient’s outcome by changing behaviour
There is overwhelming evidence that changing people’s health-related behaviour can have a significant impact on improving their health and recovery after surgery or an illness. Behaviour and people’s lifestyle choices play a vital role in their health for example a poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking.
In England there are around 3.5 million people who have Type 2 diabetes. Diabetes and its complications cost over £6 billion every year to treat. With a health service under so much strain and the growing popularity of wearable lifestyle apps, it is unsurprising that healthcare settings are adopting an app that coaches’ patients to improve their health outcomes or recovery after surgery. These apps enable both a patient and the healthcare professional to monitor and track the health condition, preventing progression of certain conditions and even reversing them in some instances.
One award winning company offering this type of lifestyle coaching service is Liva Healthcare, they describe their Liva app as a lifestyle coach in your pocket. These apps offer digital lifestyle and care plans, easy self-monitoring, motivational features and online support communities for peer-to-peer support. Digital technologies such as these are driving clinical outcomes cost effectively.
A new era of digital equipment
With the emergence of AI, cloud technologies and huge data capture we are experiencing incredible changes in healthcare and how we tackle health conditions. With the first remote operation via 5G connection performed in China in January, the future is on our doorstep. Here we look at three companies using cutting edge digital equipment to advance healthcare.
Skin Analytics - using AI to deliver dermatology services that improve a patient’s ability to access skin cancer assessments and reduce the costs to the health system. They have designed a series of AI algorithms that take a dermascopic image of a skin lesion to help identify skin cancer.
Cardiologs - partners with healthcare professionals across the world to make expert cardiac diagnostics scalable and accessible to everyone by utilising medical-grade AI and cloud technology. Cardiologs ECG Analysis Solution is built on a database of more than 700,000 recordings.
Entia - a London based medical technology manufacturer who provide simplified blood tests through two devices. Aptus enables immediate, accurate haemoglobin and haematocrit testing from a simple finger prick. Affinity helps a patient to know how their blood counts are affected by cancer treatment, with a simple blood test done at home. The results are shared with their doctor using real-time digital connection.
Adoption of new digital technologies
One of the challenges that the healthcare profession will face is uptake to these new technologies. Although the public may profess to wanting these technologies a recent survey by Which magazine shows that whilst most GPs already offer online booking, prescription ordering, and access to medical records online or via an app only 26% of patients are registered for these services. However, we believe that by creating robust implementation plans and by providing the right education to patients around these new innovations, health boards can join a new era and Health Care as opposed to Disease Management can flourish.
If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting the following in-depth articles about other rare diseases, like Autism Spectrum Disorders: Definition and top 150+ rare diseases related to them.