The health of the nation in 2025

How advances in medical technology and telecare are changing the face of healthcare in the UK


13 Oct 2015

Scarcely a day goes by without a headline announcing a medical breakthrough, all due to make an impact on patients’ lives over the next decade.  But how will our lives be affected on a day to day basis by advances in medical technology and telecare?  

Firstly, wearable technology will become a daily essential.  At the moment fitness bands work as glorified pedometers, but over the next decade we are going to be seeing bands with sensors that record skin temperature, exposure to UV and blood pressure which will in turn link back to your care record.   Electronic sensors in clothing are also anticipated, and further down the line, implants that feed back to your personal health data. 

This information will be accessed by your GP, and these records could also result in a discount on your health insurance.  Similarly, your home insurance could be dependent on having the appropriate leak detectors, such as those for carbon dioxide, in the home.  The driver behind joined up data for insurance companies will always be addressing problems before they start costing insurance companies money.  

So if you’re feeling a little under the weather, what will you do?  No more sitting in a GP waiting room being coughed on.  Consultations with your GP will take the form of a virtual consultation. Using teleconferencing, your GP can share your health record with you at the same time. You can access your own health record and those of your dependents; no more red books for baby’s vaccinations.  

In the long term, there will be genome links to your health records.   DNA analysis will become as standard as a blood test.  There are, and have to be, a raft of safeguards in place around digital privacy, but the attitude towards data will change.  Patients will have a greater sense of ownership of their own data. 

The UK is increasingly dominated by the needs of an ageing population, and the provision of telehealth solutions has the potential to deliver greater dignity and independence across the NHS and the healthcare industry.   Digital therapy is important for patients who need at-home care or have no way to get to a clinic for therapy.  Various platforms are being developed that operate as a form of tracking system for patients, with a daily to do list, diet and exercise trackers and medication alerts.  Therefore a trip to the hospital will be less about investigation and a long-term stay, and more about timely procedures, which could see the end of bed blocking. 

Conditions like diabetes, that require the patient themselves to modify their behavior to get an end result, are increasingly being viewed as conditions that can be ‘gamified’.  Psychological research has shown that apps with targets to meet appeal to a patient’s competitive spirit and make data entry more compulsive.  

Portable diagnostic tools that work through mobile phones, like health dashboards, are currently in development.  Apps, sensors and monitors that work through mobiles are all providing an opportunity for disruptive technologies to be developed by SMEs who are forging connections between game and social platforms.  

And how about medical staff themselves?  Digital classrooms will mean medical students can access the most up to date global research and health professionals will be able to teleconference to brainstorm solutions, rather than only the top tier of doctors and consultants being able to access the most cutting edge treatments. 

This can all seem like cyber-care, and there is a risk that it could be viewed as the end of the bedside manner.  But isn’t it better that patients are helped to help themselves?  Technology can handle the automatic function of medicine and take it off the shoulders of care providers, leaving them to demonstrate the human side of medicine.  




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