Will Healthtech Fix Our NHS?

Anna Samuels

27 Oct 2021

Healthtech innovations are moving at lightning speed, bringing revolutionary changes in our healthcare systems. Only the other day, a bioengineered lung was successfully transplanted into a pig, hopefully paving the way to shorten the lung transplant waiting time for patients in the future. Amazing, right?!

There’s been huge advancements, with genomics and precision medicine uncovering new methods of treatment. The use of artificial intelligence (AI) in healthcare has accelerated this further. AI can help accurately detect cancer, offer virtual assistants to deliver medication reminders and robot-assisted therapy for recovering stroke patients.  This is only the tip of the iceberg.

COVID-19 has also sparked a huge technology-driven response to address urgent gaps in our healthcare systems.

Remote care has been at the forefront, supporting clinicians through various lockdowns, inundated hospitals, and staff shortages.

Without using tele diagnosis platforms, and NHS apps, the situation could have turned nasty, very quickly.

With all of this in mind, it will be of no surprise there’s been a significant spike in healthtech start-ups over the last year. This bustling category is making strides to make a difference to the healthcare landscape at all levels. It’s going to be very interesting keeping tabs on this sector in the next coming months and years.

Remote diagnosis – the new normal?

It begs the question, as everyday people, is speaking to a doctor remotely something we should get used to?

It was only the other day I was listening to a debate on Radio 4 while working on the shortage of face to face GP appointments.

There will be a £250 million emergency fund over the winter so GPs can hire extra locums. There’s also talk that social distancing rules are expected to be relaxed so that more people can wait in doctors’ surgeries.

However, many GP’s are saying their time is spent more effectively while remotely diagnosing. I’m in the camp that I want to actually see a doctor when I have something wrong with me. I think that clinician – patient contact is really important, and I’m sure I’m not alone on this either.

On the other hand, this could be the catalyst for patients becoming more proactive with their health, embracing new technology and potentially leading to earlier diagnosis.

For instance, patients can and are seeking solutions on their own terms. Why go and wait in line to get a COVID-19 test, or manage my prescription, if I can do it at home?

Is tech the panacea the NHS needs?

Many people feel our beloved NHS is totally in need of saving. But that involves many other ways, beyond tele diagnosis, and modern medicine.

This new way of serving society aims to deliver faster, safer, and more convenient patient care. But to do this effectively a complete overhaul of the organisation’s IT infrastructure is needed. This isn’t easy when IT teams within the NHS are stuck between wanting to deliver more innovative services but are hamstrung by budgets that have to be spread thinly across the board.

Although on a more positive note, it was announced 2 days ago that the NHS is set to receive an extra £5.9bn. I was pleased to see that the aim of this budget wasn’t for ‘day-to-day’ spending, but partly for IT infrastructure. With this they should update IT systems across the board which will modernise them, and help future proof against further crises.

Technological advancements already have and will continue to offer significant opportunities to improve our healthcare system. But unfortunately, they won’t be the immediate solution to protect the NHS from the pressures it faces. This is going to take some time, so let’s not hold our breath.

A huge shout out to all NHS and front-line workers, who have kept these cogs turning before, throughout, and will continue to do so after the pandemic – technology, or no technology.