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NHS set for digital health tech review

Published on 30/10/15 at 09:55am
Doctor computer
Jeremy Hunt says digital technology can ease pressure on the health service and improve patient outcomes

Health secretary Jeremy Hunt says turning the NHS into a “patient-powered, technologically advanced health service” is “one of the most interesting” challenges facing the system.

In a speech on how to empower patients, Mr Hunt said he wanted to “change the face of modern medicine beyond recognition”, and embrace changes in the world of pharma and healthcare.

“These changes are being driven by technology and by our ability to use data differently,” Mr Hunt said. “And although healthcare has lagged behind the travel, retail and banking sectors in embracing what is possible, we are now on the cusp of changes in modern healthcare that will be as profound for humanity as the invention of the internet.”

Mr Hunt cited several examples of digital technology that have changed healthcare delivery – including digital pills like the Abilify sensor submitted to the FDA by Otsuka Pharmaceuticals and Proteus Digital Health.

"Early evidence suggests that this could result in significant behaviour change by patients, notably much better adherence to drug regimes. In one study nearly 40% more patients reached their target blood pressure when using the digital pill,” Mr Hunt said.

He also described an app called Ginger, which monitors a user’s movements for health and behaviour changes indicative of depression or suicidal tendencies “with greater accuracy than a psychiatrist,” Mr Hunt said. “

Without even being opened, this app monitors whether you got out of bed, if you skip a meal and if you are texting or calling friends in line with normal social activity. By tracking what an average day looks like for that patient, this app detects deviations from the norm and alerts clinicians or relatives when they should check in to see how you’re doing.”

To boost the use of these kinds of health technologies in the health service, and drive “the move to the ‘quantified self’ in medicine”, Mr Hunt is appointing international digital health expert Professor Robert Wachter, chief of hospital medicine and chief of medical service at the University of California San Francisco, to conduct a review on how the NHS can become a world leading digital health system. The review is seen by many as potentially practice-changing as Don Berwick’s review on patient safety. It is due to report next summer.

Lilian Anekwe

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