The healthcare industry is heading towards a digital revolution, not quite at the speed that some other technology-embracing sectors may be, but none the less the future of health care is definitely a digital one. The future is in no doubt, what we could question however is who is going to make sure that this technology is utilised by the individuals that need it most – who will drive engagement that moves beyond the commercials to the social benefit of usage?
Consider the web-based services that give people easy and quick access to health advice and support, the devices that enable people to monitor health conditions such as diabetes or hypertension at home, or the fact that you can now make appointments with your GP online, even hold a consultation via video conference. You only have to scratch the surface to see the impact digital technology is having on the healthcare industry already.
With more and more digital integration there comes a series of challenges – how to ensure these are not just pockets of innovation but change in the industry as a whole, how to put the user in control and ensure the technology is fit for purpose, and how to get these digital solutions to the people who need them the most?
One of the more obvious mediums for delivery is the charity sector. Well placed with their community contacts to identify those sections of the population that will benefit most from digital health solutions. Charities can help to ensure that assistive solutions are part of a holistic approach – integrating all of the resources available to a person, to build a package suitable for the individual. This holistic approach will be critical in the process of balancing practical needs of an individual with their social and emotional needs. Charities are often organisations that evoke the greatest sense of trust and this is essential to instil confidence in first time technology users, therefore charities should play a significant role in the roll out of digital healthcare.
Projects such as the Mobiles Made Easy initiative, provide the perfect example of delivering a digital solution to the members of society that will benefit from it most. MME enables individuals to continue living in the way that they wish, providing their families and carers with the peace of mind that their loved ones are safe. Making use of the cloud infrastructure and mobile devices, it will allow people to stay in contact with and monitor their elderly or vulnerable relatives, even from a great distance.
It ticks the boxes in terms of putting the user in control as it not only delivers peace of mind to families but gives those elderly or vulnerable individuals more freedom and independence. Without the technology they may be facing a future of permanent, long term residential care.
The digital healthcare revolution will also ease the burden on an over-stretched healthcare industry, by implementing virtual solutions that enable one person to monitor more than one patient at once, or handing back more care responsibilities to the patient’s relatives or friends.
None of us know what the future may bring but with the support of charities and community initiatives, the fantastic digital products and services that are being developed can be deployed on a larger scale.