Imagine computer-controlled A&E rooms, DNA tests on your smartphone and 3D printed drugs tailored to your body. What sound like scenes from The Matrix are, in fact, becoming a reality, as the technology sector increasingly shifts its focus to health-related gadgets and apps.
Sales of fitness bands have come thick and fast, and this year is allegedly going to be the one in which smartwatch sales explode – driven, of course, by the upcoming Apple Watch. Healthcare is undoubtedly an increasingly hot topic within the technology sector, but this development isn't just a one-way street!
Pharma companies themselves have in turn started partnering with tech giants to create smarter tools and more efficient treatments for patients. One example of such a symbiosis we saw last year was Novartis' partnership with Google to develop smart contact lenses that monitor blood sugar levels through your eyes – a device that could completely revolutionise the way people with diabetes regulate their insulin intake.
Look to the future
It's astonishing what we can already do with the technology we have to hand today, but what else does the future have in store for the global healthcare industry?
We asked this question at our 30:30 Vision event last year, in which startups and well-established companies, all working in the healthcare sector, joined us to cast an eye 30 years into the future and come up with their vision for what their industry will look like in 2044. They were joined by someone who knows how to seize opportunities from converging sectors – Sir Richard Branson – and collectively agreed that there are major developments ahead, from home support to mobile healthcare.
But if we leave the glitz and glamour of the newest consumer gadgets aside and focus on the fundamental healthcare questions that are currently being asked, we see that technology is already providing solutions to healthcare professionals and patients every day – both in the private and public healthcare sectors.
The NHS, for example, is under constant pressure to reduce spending while ensuring high-quality treatment for all patients. With fewer specialists to hand and an increasing number of patients, one solution is to create a network that connects specialist consultants to hospital sites in order to give out-of-hours medical advice. We've worked with Cumbria and Lancashire NHS Trust to enable such a network for stroke victims and not only does it guarantee that patients get the professional treatment they need as quickly as possible, it already saves the NHS a whopping £8 million per year.
Making treatments as efficient as possible for both the patient and the institution is a constant concern, especially in the private sector. By embracing modern technologies, companies are currently looking at introducing smart lanyards that can track staff in and out of appointments to streamline processes and coordinate availabilities.
Finally, with an aging population comes an increased need for treatment and medical advice. Providing high-speed broadband access to key hubs like nursing homes or leisure centres, allows medical check-ups to be conducted via videoconference as doctors are able to remotely advise patients from their offices, drastically increasing the number of patients they can 'see' each day.
The big technology revolution of the healthcare sector is underway – and we can already see the first results of this great collaboration benefitting thousands of people across the UK. If healthcare and technology companies continue to work hand in hand, this can only get better. The future of the healthcare sector is ambitiously exciting, working towards a future where we save time and vital budget whilst providing better care.
- Duncan Higgins is marketing director at Virgin Media Business