To say that technology has advanced apace over the last 10 years would be a gross understatement. Today we have a plethora of technologies that are becoming increasingly accessible to the extent that their impact both in the way social and healthcare professionals perform their jobs and their ability to significantly affect patient outcomes is profound.
Here we take a look at how technology is transforming the care sector.
Since 2013 the number of health-related apps has more than doubled to over 100,000, with more than 70% of the UK population now having a smartphone (Deloitte). According to Ofcom’s Technology Tracker, the smartphone’s potential has yet to be fully realised.
Indeed, although only an estimated 16% of healthcare professionals currently use so-called mHealth apps, 46% plan to do so within the next five years. In their research, Research Now found that healthcare professionals and health app users surveyed believed that mobile health apps “improved the quality of life” for patients.
By 2018 the cost for treating chronic conditions is expected to increase to over £5 billion per year, while the funding gap in the NHS is predicted to be around the £30 billion mark. So the pressure is on providers to streamline costs without negatively impacting on patient care and shows no sign of abating. But that’s where technology is already showing real benefits.
Deloitte’s has found that the mobile technology has the capacity to cut the amount of time spent on paperwork by 60%, whilst increasing the time dealing with patients by 29%. And in a telehealth hub study of 210 care homes across the UK (which provide remote support to patients and carers via a video link with the aim of reducing attendances to A&E and admissions into the hospital) hospital admissions fell by 35%, A&E attendances dropped by 53% and the number of hospital bed days saw a fall of 59%
Reaching patients where they are looking most
It is estimated that 75% of all patients go online for health information, but of course the technology needs to be personalised in order to have any real value for patients. There are several cases of private practices providing digital services whereby patients can consult with their doctors online and triaged remotely.
This has the effect of enabling quicker diagnosis, better quality reporting and for many patients saving time too, with some workers losing out on pay if they need to leave work early to visit their GP.
Of course technology is just an enabler, it is not a silver bullet. Yes it will ease much of the burden placed on the shoulders of many social and healthcare providers, but the real goal will be to empower patients to take greater control of their health and for clinicians to better engage, predict, diagnose and treat their patients whilst being supported by better data to enable them to make better decisions.
However, greater take up of technology needs to be encouraged if the care sector is to stand any real chance of overcoming many of the challenges it faces both in the here and now and over the next few years.