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Can Digital Boost Life into Healthcare?

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The healthcare sector is lagging behind other industries. Quite often the problem isn’t caused by the Doctor or nurse who is treating the patient, but by other factors. In the UK, the NHS is undergoing some of the biggest challenges that it has ever had to face. Andy Burnham, currently the Shadow Secretary of State for Health spoke at a Reform Conference in December 2014 stating “‘we have reached the very limits of a 20th century model of care. We urgently need to turn it around.”  Although the NHS is unique to the UK, many hospitals across the world can find their systems under strain. Here are some of the main causes why our healthcare is in somewhat of a crisis:

Lifestyle Implications

Our diets are likely to be more complex than in the past. We have a wider variety of food available to us, including processed foods and a lack of fruit and vegetables can contribute to a poor diet. Pair this with a lack of exercise, anyone who smokes or drinks to excess, and we have rising obesity levels and more reason than before for becoming unwell thus more people needing healthcare. Not to mention life is stressful and stress related illnesses need to be factored in.

Living Longer

Even though many are lacking a healthy diet and have picked up some bad habits, we are generally living longer. However, it is rare that after making it to a certain age, you will be free of illness. Often these illnesses are long-term such as a heart condition or diabetes so the care that is needed must also be long-term. In short, more people living longer = more care is needed and overpopulated healthcare services.

We Want More

We expect a lot from our hospitals and other healthcare providers. Initially, saving lives and attempting to cure disease was the aim when the NHS was established in the UK. Nowadays, services are more comprehensive and we go to a clinic or hospital for anything from healthcare advice, contraception, mental health issues as well as to get medication and for appointment purposes. Pair this with the ageing population and there is a lot going on.

Technology and Medicine is Moving On

Of course it would be ridiculous to see this as a negative. There has been many technological and innovation breakthroughs in modern medicine that have saved countless lives. These changes are costing a lot of money to run so while they are necessary, there is now even more of an economic strain on our healthcare.

What Can We Do?

The rest of society is now technologically savvy. In the UK, healthcare is an area where new technology including health apps, remote monitoring, data sharing and the use of social media has been slow to catch up, although there is now improvements which in the long term will save money. According to Tim Wilson, a health industry partner at PwC, the NHS could make 4.4 billion worth of savings based on efficiency if they get on board with widespread digital technology that can enable a more flexible and responsive healthcare service. Plus, any data generated can go into making correct decisions regarding staffing.

Our society is tech-aware thus technology should be able to influence their treatment.  Even the older generation is more comfortable with technology than they have ever previously been.  If public healthcare hesitates any further in implementing new technology both for healthcare and organisational purposes, the gap between private and public healthcare will widen even more. Only those who can afford it will be able to benefit from the effects of digital systems in health.

If the healthcare service is to continue as it is, additional deficit is inevitable to the point that in the UK, the NHS will go bankrupt. Professor of Digital Health at Salford University, Shahid Ali believes that “you can actually use less money and improve care, but we need to create opportunities for innovation in the NHS.”