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The Rise of Digital Technology

So let’s start with the basics. What is digital technology?

According to Commerce and Economic Teachers Association (CETA), it is “used to describe the use of digital resources to effectively find, analyse, create, communicate, and use information in a digital context. This encompasses the use of web 2.0 tools, digital media tools, programming tools and software applications.” The application of digital technology has become more evident in healthcare as a way to empower patients to understand and take control of their own healthcare through smartphones, wearable devices and healthcare records.

In 2014 McKinsey & Company conducted a digital patient survey in which they asked respondents to indicate the number of times their interactions with health and social care systems involved various digital technologies in the past year. This survey was pertinent in bursting the myth that patients don’t use digital services for healthcare, and demonstrated how healthcare access is evolving. They concluded that the reason patients are slow to adopt digital healthcare is mainly because existing services don’t meet their needs or because they are of poor quality! Overall, their survey revealed that respondents are happy to utilise digital healthcare services, as long as those services meet their medical needs and provide the level of quality they expect.

A summary report from the Nuffield Trust regarding digital technology utilisation in healthcare revealed that patient outcomes could be improved because technology intelligently supports long-term health management and short-term episodes of illness/injury. They also provided striking examples of how digital innovations could deliver significant benefits relatively rapidly such as:

• Apps that monitor vital signs and enable clinicians to identify and prioritise patients who require the most urgent attention

• Apps that support staff working peripatetically (walking on foot) in the community

These sound like exciting and innovative ways that digital technology could shape healthcare in the future!

A number key outcomes of digital technology are expected in the near future:

• Clinical professionals and their organisations will be spending their time treating patients and having real-time access to all the information they need to make clinical opinions.

• A lot less time will be spent by staff on administrative tasks and routine communication, as automation, voice recognition and natural language processing become more commonplace.

• New roles and competencies will be added to the managerial cadre in health care – most importantly that of analytics.

Finally, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) are hoping to use their experience in healthcare technology assessment to evaluate health-focused mobile applications. Their aim is to provide evidence and data for healthcare professionals and prospective app users about the efficacy and cost-effectiveness of these digital health regimens in a real-world setting. This additional layer of regulation will ensure that what is put on the market is effective, relevant and enhances the quality of life for patients whilst aiding decision-making among clinical professionals.

On the 7th March 2017 the UK Life Sciences Minister, George Freeman, opened the new home to the Health eResearch Centre of the Farr Institute at The University of Manchester, creating a North of England hub for some of the world’s BEST digital and health research. Freeman will also endorse Greater Manchester Academic Health Science Network’s DataWell project at CityLabs. The project is linking data across different health care organisations to provide an innovative solution to improving both direct clinical care and how patients access information about their healthcare. We will also soon witness how the Manchester Science Partnership is building a new concentration of businesses at the junction of NHS and University sites to incubate growth in the digital health sector.

More projects at the University of Manchester using digital/mobile technology to enhance patient health, self-care and overall wellbeing can be found HERE.

The North West Biotech Initiative will be hosting SIX great speakers who are making waves in the digital technology field and they have kindly agreed to talk to us about how digital technology is having an impact in healthcare. Here is a brief glimpse into who they are!

1. Mariam Bibi senor director of Real World Evidence at Consulting for McCann Health, External advisor for Quality and Productivity at NICE and an Associate Lecturer at Manchester Metropolitan University. She will be talking about the regulatory aspect of bringing digital technology to healthcare.

2. Tom Higham is an experienced business leader working with artists, developers and policy makers to produce creative projects. He will be talking about the use of type 1 diabetes management apps from a patient perspective.

3. Professor Shon Lewis is a professor of Adult Psychiatry at the University of Manchester. He will outline how the team at ClinTouch have created an app to aid management of patients with psychosis.

4. Professor Tjeerd Van Staa is a professor of eHealth Research at University of Manchester. He is also leading the CityVerve case on Internet of Things technology to help people manage their Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

5. Anna Beukenhorst is currently investigating the opportunities and challenges of using smartphones and smart watches for healthcare research in a study called Cloudy with a Chance of Pain, which is investigating the association between the weather and chronic pain in more than 13,000 participants. Additionally, she is involved in a study using smart watches to collect physical activity data and analyse it to improve care for people with osteoarthritis.

6. Reina Yaidoo runs a social enterprise called Bassa Jamba, which promotes access to science and technology, is founder of Yaidoo, an innovations company and created an award-winning diabetes app.

If you want to learn more, please come to our event on Thursday 27th April 2017 in the MOSELEY theatre of the Schuster Building at the University of Manchester from 3.30-6pm. Register HERE.

And of course, watch this space for more info!

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