Healthcare is changing, whether we like it or not. With the advent of so many new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and telehealth impacting on the world as we know it, healthcare is just one industry of many that are being impacted by the digital world.

The great thing about tech in healthcare, however, is that many businesses are adopting it as a way of solving a problem. Using technology is a fantastic way of addressing many of the key health challenges we are facing globally today. Our client BBI, for example, have used technology to produce their SEM Scanner which is the first FDA authorised device to objectively alert clinicians to specific areas of a patient’s body at increased risk of developing pressure ulcers.

This is a great example of how technology can be used in healthcare to offer greater preventive care which is more precise, giving the patient an improved experience, and helping to create greater efficiencies within the healthcare sector as a whole.

A recent report by Deloitte stated that global health care spending is projected to increase at an annual rate of 5.4% in the next 3 years – a considerable rise from just 2.9% between 2013 to 2017. There are several things that are contributing to this rise in spending including:

  • Growing and ageing populations
  • Increase in chronic diseases

Both these things are putting a lot of strain on healthcare providers, so the more technology can be used to ease these pressures, the better.

Taking control of our own health

In our daily lives, we think nothing of ordering a taxi through the Uber app or paying for our sandwich at lunch using Apple Pay. So using an app on our phone to book our next doctor’s appointment is a natural next step. With the projected increase in global healthcare spending being so large, and the associated pressure this will put on healthcare providers, surely it is time that the onus is put back on patients to manage their own health.

In July this year, Pew Internet & American Life Project released figures that stated that 80% of internet users in America had searched for a healthcare topic online – up from 62% back in 2001. Most frequently people went online to look for information about:

  • A specific disease or medical problem (63%)
  • A particular medical treatment or procedure (47%)
  • Diet, nutrition and vitamins (44%)
  • Exercise or fitness information (36%)
  • Prescription or over-the-counter drugs (34%)
  • Alternative treatments (28%)

They are then using the information they find to help them decide which medicines to buy and make decisions as to how to handle their illnesses.  However, the issue with this is that the information they find may not be the most relevant to them, or even correct. There are a number of high-quality sites online, but there are also a number of junk sites too.

The good thing is that Google seems to be aware of the issue relating to the quality of health-related search results and is trying to do something about it. They recently introduced E-A-T quality guidelines which specifically focus on health and medical advice sites. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness and Google are using it to help them to prevent serving searchers with links to pages that will offer them uneducated advice and opinions or that are potentially fraudulent. We will cover this topic in more depth in other blog posts.

All of this, however, points to the undeniable fact that the internet has a vital role to play in healthcare education and research across all health issues on a global scale. The more relevant information that searchers can find online, the more likely they are to make more informed decisions and ask the right questions, which will lead them to receive more efficient care. A win for everyone involved.

Digital Conversations

Traditionally, healthcare conversations have taken place in a doctor’s office after making an appointment – which makes sense as doctors are unable to accurately diagnose people without physically examining them. However, our lives nowadays pretty much rely on digital technology and so we are more ready to accept that this may change in the future, and we would like more accessibility to doctors and information about our own health online.

This has led to many exciting developments in the area of telehealth – which is the area of healthcare which is concerned with giving people the ability to communicate with their doctor through a phone call or video call rather than having to travel to their office. This is not only a more convenient way for most people to deal with minor health issues, but also offers more flexibility for both the doctor and the patient with regard to appointment times, and frees up both the doctor and the patient as well.

In 2018, LaingBuisson Healthcare Intelligence released a report in association with GoPrivate which stated that frustration with NHS waiting lists was driving people to pay for their own healthcare. They reported that the market for self-pay surgery and treatment was £1.1 billion in 2017, up 9% in 2016 and a massive growth from 2013 when it was around £493 million.

This frustration with the NHS is mostly caused by the fact it is under so much strain, and telehealth can help to alleviate this strain by freeing up doctors’ time to focus on more urgent cases in-person, as it allows them to deal with minor cases through digital health services.

This frustration with existing healthcare options is not just limited to the UK. A recent survey by the Bureau of Labour in America, for example, showed that the average American household spent almost $5000 per person on healthcare in 2018, which is 101% increase from 1984. Digital services can help to reduce these costs and offer a much better standard of healthcare for those who live in more remote locations.

However, it is not all good news when it comes to digital healthcare. Not everyone is fully on board with communicating with their doctor online, and many people still crave that one-on-one interaction – especially if they are dealing with a serious condition. This is a potential hurdle that will have to be overcome moving forward if digital healthcare is to succeed.

But the ability to communicate with doctors more easily is just one strand of the digital healthcare solution offering, and the ability to access better health information online is another strand. AI is being used by many companies as a way of supporting doctors rather than aiming to replace them. Using cloud-based technology to support centralised and secure healthcare records would be a great way to encourage people to own their own health and wellness.

To this end, companies who haven’t traditionally dealt with health, are now entering the healthcare space. For example, Apple, Google and Microsoft are looking at ways they can give patients in America access to their own health insurance claims through their smartphones.

AI and Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the key to revolutionising the field of healthcare; after all, it could speed up the development of new drugs, lead to personalised medicine informed by our genomes, and help diagnose diseases in countries which are currently suffering from underdeveloped health services and a chronic shortage of doctors – if the recent “AI for Good” summit is to be believed.

There is some truth to this: after all, one of the key benefits of AI is its use of deep- and machine-learning to analyse enormous amounts of data, learn from this data and give predictions using what it has learnt. However, there is some discussion around the quality of data available at the moment, with the World Health Organisation estimating that only around 20% of the world’s medical data is currently available in a form which AI machine learning algorithms can analyse and learn from.

There are steps being made to correct this though. In August 2019 the UK Government announced it was investing £250 million in public funds for the NHS to be able to set up an artificial intelligence lab which would work to expand the use of AI technologies for the service. The AI lab sits inside NHSX, a new NHS unit tasked with overseeing the digitisation of the health and care system. The aim of the lab is to tackle some of the biggest challenges in health and care, including early cancer detection, dementia treatments and more personalised care.

However, again it is not all plain sailing when it comes to AI and healthcare, with many patients struggling with the possibility that they will have to share their healthcare data and the privacy issues this may cause. This is an issue as AI needs access to as much data as possible in order to spot patterns that humans can’t, diagnose diseases more accurately and target treatments more effectively – which it can’t do if people won’t share their data.

So, there is still a long way to go with the application of AI in healthcare – and overcoming patients’ concerns is key.

Tech Giants are Disrupting the Market

It may surprise you to learn that the key players currently in the healthcare market are not pharmaceutical companies but tech giants such as Amazon and Google.

Amazon recently signed a deal with the NHS which now sees its AI-powered voice assistant Alexa offering health advice for patients in the UK who are unable to easily access health information online. The Amazon Echo and Echo dot can now relay information from the NHS website to users who ask health-related questions about minor ailments. Amazon is also drawing on its expertise in eCommerce to enter the pharmaceutical supply chain market and has recently started offering its own employees in the US telemedicine services through its Amazon Care service: a test for something consumer-facing in the future, maybe?

Google is also working hard to enter the healthcare space as well, with the recent hiring of its first Chief Health Officer Karen DeSalvo (a former Obama administration health official). Her role focuses on advising Google on doctors, nurses and providers through the firm’s cloud unit and its Verily life science arm.  They have also recently consolidated their artificial intelligence division – DeepMind – and hardware unit into one team. It will be interesting to watch for developments over the coming months.

Again, the main hurdle these tech companies have to overcome when it comes to healthcare is privacy concerns. With patients having reservations about sharing information with their healthcare providers, it stands to reason that these reservations will only increase when it comes to large technology companies. AI is so reliant on data and the only way to get this is to secure customer confidence so that they will share it, meaning health data is the new currency for anyone who wants to make any headway in the industry at all.

So, as you can see, AI and technology have a key role to play in healthcare for the future, but there are obstacles to overcome before it can all come to fruition. Here at Zool, we work with many clients in the healthcare, health tech and biotech arena and so are well versed on the challenges and ways to overcome them. If you would like us to help your company to succeed in today’s complicated marketplace then please get in touch with us today.

The future of healthcare: AI and digital conversations?

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Healthcare is changing, whether we like it or not. With the advent of so many new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics and telehealth impacting on the world as we know it, healthcare is just one industry of many that are being impacted by the digital world.

The great thing about tech in healthcare, however, is that many businesses are adopting it as a way of solving a problem. Using technology is a fantastic way of addressing many of the key health challenges we are facing globally today. Our client BBI, for example, have used technology to produce their SEM Scanner which is the first FDA authorised device to objectively alert clinicians to specific areas of a patient’s body at increased risk of developing pressure ulcers.

This is a great example of how technology can be used in healthcare to offer greater preventive care which is more precise, giving the patient an improved experience, and helping to create greater efficiencies within the healthcare sector as a whole.

A recent report by Deloitte stated that global health care spending is projected to increase at an annual rate of 5.4% in the next 3 years – a considerable rise from just 2.9% between 2013 to 2017. There are several things that are contributing to this rise in spending including:

  • Growing and ageing populations
  • Increase in chronic diseases

Both these things are putting a lot of strain on healthcare providers, so the more technology can be used to ease these pressures, the better.

Taking control of our own health

In our daily lives, we think nothing of ordering a taxi through the Uber app or paying for our sandwich at lunch using Apple Pay. So using an app on our phone to book our next doctor’s appointment is a natural next step. With the projected increase in global healthcare spending being so large, and the associated pressure this will put on healthcare providers, surely it is time that the onus is put back on patients to manage their own health.

In July this year, Pew Internet & American Life Project released figures that stated that 80% of internet users in America had searched for a healthcare topic online – up from 62% back in 2001. Most frequently people went online to look for information about:

  • A specific disease or medical problem (63%)
  • A particular medical treatment or procedure (47%)
  • Diet, nutrition and vitamins (44%)
  • Exercise or fitness information (36%)
  • Prescription or over-the-counter drugs (34%)
  • Alternative treatments (28%)

They are then using the information they find to help them decide which medicines to buy and make decisions as to how to handle their illnesses.  However, the issue with this is that the information they find may not be the most relevant to them, or even correct. There are a number of high-quality sites online, but there are also a number of junk sites too.

The good thing is that Google seems to be aware of the issue relating to the quality of health-related search results and is trying to do something about it. They recently introduced E-A-T quality guidelines which specifically focus on health and medical advice sites. E-A-T stands for Expertise, Authority and Trustworthiness and Google are using it to help them to prevent serving searchers with links to pages that will offer them uneducated advice and opinions or that are potentially fraudulent. We will cover this topic in more depth in other blog posts.

All of this, however, points to the undeniable fact that the internet has a vital role to play in healthcare education and research across all health issues on a global scale. The more relevant information that searchers can find online, the more likely they are to make more informed decisions and ask the right questions, which will lead them to receive more efficient care. A win for everyone involved.

Digital Conversations

Traditionally, healthcare conversations have taken place in a doctor’s office after making an appointment – which makes sense as doctors are unable to accurately diagnose people without physically examining them. However, our lives nowadays pretty much rely on digital technology and so we are more ready to accept that this may change in the future, and we would like more accessibility to doctors and information about our own health online.

This has led to many exciting developments in the area of telehealth – which is the area of healthcare which is concerned with giving people the ability to communicate with their doctor through a phone call or video call rather than having to travel to their office. This is not only a more convenient way for most people to deal with minor health issues, but also offers more flexibility for both the doctor and the patient with regard to appointment times, and frees up both the doctor and the patient as well.

In 2018, LaingBuisson Healthcare Intelligence released a report in association with GoPrivate which stated that frustration with NHS waiting lists was driving people to pay for their own healthcare. They reported that the market for self-pay surgery and treatment was £1.1 billion in 2017, up 9% in 2016 and a massive growth from 2013 when it was around £493 million.

This frustration with the NHS is mostly caused by the fact it is under so much strain, and telehealth can help to alleviate this strain by freeing up doctors’ time to focus on more urgent cases in-person, as it allows them to deal with minor cases through digital health services.

This frustration with existing healthcare options is not just limited to the UK. A recent survey by the Bureau of Labour in America, for example, showed that the average American household spent almost $5000 per person on healthcare in 2018, which is 101% increase from 1984. Digital services can help to reduce these costs and offer a much better standard of healthcare for those who live in more remote locations.

However, it is not all good news when it comes to digital healthcare. Not everyone is fully on board with communicating with their doctor online, and many people still crave that one-on-one interaction – especially if they are dealing with a serious condition. This is a potential hurdle that will have to be overcome moving forward if digital healthcare is to succeed.

But the ability to communicate with doctors more easily is just one strand of the digital healthcare solution offering, and the ability to access better health information online is another strand. AI is being used by many companies as a way of supporting doctors rather than aiming to replace them. Using cloud-based technology to support centralised and secure healthcare records would be a great way to encourage people to own their own health and wellness.

To this end, companies who haven’t traditionally dealt with health, are now entering the healthcare space. For example, Apple, Google and Microsoft are looking at ways they can give patients in America access to their own health insurance claims through their smartphones.

AI and Healthcare

Artificial Intelligence (AI) could be the key to revolutionising the field of healthcare; after all, it could speed up the development of new drugs, lead to personalised medicine informed by our genomes, and help diagnose diseases in countries which are currently suffering from underdeveloped health services and a chronic shortage of doctors – if the recent “AI for Good” summit is to be believed.

There is some truth to this: after all, one of the key benefits of AI is its use of deep- and machine-learning to analyse enormous amounts of data, learn from this data and give predictions using what it has learnt. However, there is some discussion around the quality of data available at the moment, with the World Health Organisation estimating that only around 20% of the world’s medical data is currently available in a form which AI machine learning algorithms can analyse and learn from.

There are steps being made to correct this though. In August 2019 the UK Government announced it was investing £250 million in public funds for the NHS to be able to set up an artificial intelligence lab which would work to expand the use of AI technologies for the service. The AI lab sits inside NHSX, a new NHS unit tasked with overseeing the digitisation of the health and care system. The aim of the lab is to tackle some of the biggest challenges in health and care, including early cancer detection, dementia treatments and more personalised care.

However, again it is not all plain sailing when it comes to AI and healthcare, with many patients struggling with the possibility that they will have to share their healthcare data and the privacy issues this may cause. This is an issue as AI needs access to as much data as possible in order to spot patterns that humans can’t, diagnose diseases more accurately and target treatments more effectively – which it can’t do if people won’t share their data.

So, there is still a long way to go with the application of AI in healthcare – and overcoming patients’ concerns is key.

Tech Giants are Disrupting the Market

It may surprise you to learn that the key players currently in the healthcare market are not pharmaceutical companies but tech giants such as Amazon and Google.

Amazon recently signed a deal with the NHS which now sees its AI-powered voice assistant Alexa offering health advice for patients in the UK who are unable to easily access health information online. The Amazon Echo and Echo dot can now relay information from the NHS website to users who ask health-related questions about minor ailments. Amazon is also drawing on its expertise in eCommerce to enter the pharmaceutical supply chain market and has recently started offering its own employees in the US telemedicine services through its Amazon Care service: a test for something consumer-facing in the future, maybe?

Google is also working hard to enter the healthcare space as well, with the recent hiring of its first Chief Health Officer Karen DeSalvo (a former Obama administration health official). Her role focuses on advising Google on doctors, nurses and providers through the firm’s cloud unit and its Verily life science arm.  They have also recently consolidated their artificial intelligence division – DeepMind – and hardware unit into one team. It will be interesting to watch for developments over the coming months.

Again, the main hurdle these tech companies have to overcome when it comes to healthcare is privacy concerns. With patients having reservations about sharing information with their healthcare providers, it stands to reason that these reservations will only increase when it comes to large technology companies. AI is so reliant on data and the only way to get this is to secure customer confidence so that they will share it, meaning health data is the new currency for anyone who wants to make any headway in the industry at all.

So, as you can see, AI and technology have a key role to play in healthcare for the future, but there are obstacles to overcome before it can all come to fruition. Here at Zool, we work with many clients in the healthcare, health tech and biotech arena and so are well versed on the challenges and ways to overcome them. If you would like us to help your company to succeed in today’s complicated marketplace then please get in touch with us today.