WE ALL know that the aging population, lifestyle-related diseases and shrinking budgets mean it will become increasingly difficult for traditional health and care services to face up to the unprecedented healthcare challenges ahead.
And in the face of this ticking health time bomb, service models must change fundamentally if they are to remain sustainable, efficient and effective. They must refocus their efforts on keeping people well for longer, instead of waiting for people to become sick before taking action.
Digital healthcare presents the perfect opportunity to deliver improved quality and safety and increased efficiency, if carefully designed. Covering a diverse range of terms (eg telemedicine, telehealthcare, e-health, mobile health, and assisted living) it is evolving rapidly. At its most basic, reminder text messages are used by GP surgeries to reduce “no shows”, and more advanced applications are helping clinicians monitor patients remotely, enabling people to live independently at home for longer.
The cultural shift towards increased use of technology provides the ideal platform to help people engage more positively with their health – the first step towards making healthcare sustainable for the future. But despite this, the adoption of digital technology by healthcare services has been limited to short-lived initiatives, and this is down to cost, difficulty in achieving wider adoption and cultural resistance.
Fortunately, attitudes are changing. Governments and healthcare providers across the UK and Europe are developing digital strategies, and industry is leading the way by developing technology, software and services that will revolutionise healthcare by making it accessible in homes as well as hospitals.
However, as is true in many emerging markets, developers are struggling to achieve commercial success. Difficulty in securing trials, funding, investors, partners and buyers mean real healthcare solutions aren’t reaching those who need them.
Commercial innovation is required just as urgently as technological innovation, and more needs to be done by governments, providers and industry to ensure this opportunity to bring healthcare into the digital age doesn’t pass us by.
• Dr Steven Dodsworth is the chief executive of D Health, a consultancy based in Forres