Have you ever heard the phrase ‘bringing healthcare into the digital age’? What does that actually mean? And, more importantly, what does the future of healthcare in the UK look like? Last month Iwent to the Healthcare Efficiency through Technology Expo in London to talk to the experts and find out how the government aims to use technology to save the NHS £3 billion by 2015.
The UK has definitely entered the digital era 86% of us use the internet and 36 million of us access the internet every day. In relation to our health, nearly 50% of people in the UK go online in search of medical information, double that in 2007. But here’s the question, if you have searched for health information online do you remember what the source of that information was? Maybe it was is a reliable site such as NHS health or perhaps it was somewhere less reliable. One of the challenges in this digital era is making sure that the health information we are all searching for is available, understandable and accurate.
The UK healthcare system is in the midst of a digital challenge that will see a £1 billion investment in technology to deliver the governments commitment of allowing everyone to book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions online, and access their GP record by March 2015. At the expo we had the chance to talk to the companies behind a paperless NHS, learn about how our medical records are becoming electronic and question the experts about how these changes will impact on the future of healthcare. I had the chance to see the latest in home health monitoring – telecare and telehealth – systems, and were shown a future where doctors will be consulting a computer tablet instead of a clipboard on their ward rounds.
Information is driving advances in medicine and healthcare, which are developing at an unprecedented pace, and we now have the opportunity to understand, prevent and control many diseases. One of the ways the government is helping us understand disease is to make this information, or ‘big data’, available through data.gov.uk in the form of Health Surveys. These surveys monitor the nations health and help track progress towards targets that will make the country healthier. The surveys also help evaluate and shape health policy, estimate the proportion of people with specific health conditions and give us information about risk factors that contribute to disease. All the information is available to the public and could be used to help inform your health choices. The challenge is to make the most out of this data, something that the government is keen to encourage, and to make sure everyone understands more about their own health. The key will be providing you with the information that is relevant to you, in a way you use to take control of your future.