The NHS is currently undertaking a £40 million three-year programme to bring the “Internet of Things” into healthcare. Focusing on simple yet effective solutions that can be easily adopted by the masses, digital health is set to revolutionise healthcare services for both patients and providers. “Older patients and people with long term conditions and mental health problems will be among the first to benefit from a major new drive to modernise how the NHS delivers care” – NHS England January 2016.
Here are 3 examples of existing solutions where we can learn about the benefits and potential challenges faced when scaling up these solutions.
Electronic Prescription Service
The Electronic Prescription Service (EPS) allows prescriptions to be sent direct to pharmacies through IT systems used in GP surgeries. Eventually EPS will remove the need for most paper prescriptions.
- Patients can collect repeat prescriptions directly from a pharmacy without visiting a GP
- paper prescriptions will become obsolete so can’t be misplaced
- Patients will spend less time waiting in the pharmacy
- The service is reliable, secure and confidential
- It could cause confusion as the patient isn’t given a physical prescription. In many cases the carer and patient use the paper version to easily manage medications in the home
- Less digitally able patients could find the process more stressful as they may perceive less control in the process of ordering medication
- Any issues resulting in prescription details being incorrect or not sent to the pharmacy could result in wasted trips for the patient. This could be the result of human error in the system
Appointment booking software
Patients are now able to access their medical records, book appointments and order repeat prescriptions from their electronic devices with apps such as Patient Access.
- Allows patients to access local practice services online
- Reduces the need to make phone calls to the surgery
- Repeat prescriptions can also be booked online using the same system
- Convincing patients that the service is safe is a challenge for service providers
- Not all current web services have good enough design for a good user-experience
- There are still a number of users (healthcare providers and patients) who might not have access to a computer or lack the knowledge to use the service
- Some online appointment booking services require large browsers rather than mobile or browsers on tablets
Wearable Technology for Diabetes Patients
K’Track Glucose from PKvitality is the first wearable tracker that allows diabetics to self-monitor their glucose levels without the need for cumbersome and painful blood-based tests. This sort of technology gives patients control over their condition and allows for more discreet management.
Although diabetes affects 1 in 11 people in the world, it’s reported that 80% of people on treatment do not monitor their blood sugar often enough. The K’Track Glucose is a solution designed to tackle the reasons why patients might be neglecting their health. The wearable fits in with a more modern patient routine. It’s simple to use, discreet, sports-friendly, painless and allows for easy monitoring on the go.
- Replace the current method of pen-like prick tests which are easy to forget and don’t provide newly-diagnosed patients with much information
- Wrist-band devices are less invasive than needles
- The device links easily to the patient’s smartphone so they can monitor and keep a record of their blood sugar levels
- Still in the testing stage so reliability is yet to be measured
- Inconsistent adoption of technologies from the healthcare providers. Many IoT and wearable tech produce personalised data that could prove useful in managing health however this data is rarely used in consultations.
All three of these examples demonstrate the significantly positive effect that such simple solutions can have on providing patient empowerment. The impact of patient confidence over time far outweighs the initial launch costs. Such solutions should ease the pressure on healthcare resources anyway (less hospital visits required, less time spent on unnecessary phone calls etc) which will also reduce costs. The challenge lies in changing up the current structure and format to provide ability to scale up the service, provide training and ongoing support.
Bitjam are currently working with healthcare and education providers researching and exploring ways in which technology can be deployed at scale.