Why HealthTech is geared to be the UK’s next disruptive tech trend
2018 has not started particularly well for the May Government. After a challenging 2017 that saw Brexit negotiations stutter and the Conservative Party lose its majority in the snap General Election, the Prime Minister would have been hoping for a brighter 12 months.
However, no sooner had the cabinet been reshuffled than industry bodies warned the NHS had reached a tipping pointing, struggling under the weight of public demand over winter. Unfortunately, these headlines are no longer shocking, but a regular reminder of the daily stress being placed on the hospital staff, doctors and patients alike.
There are no simple solutions; what’s more, it’s too easy to point the finger of blame at Theresa May, Jeremy Hunt or any other individual. Calls for more state funding will need to be backed by a strategy which not only addresses current issues, but is also positioned to address the future challenges posed by tightening budgets and an ageing population. All options are on the table, and like any industry, one of the best methods for improving efficiency and achieving cost savings without sacrificing the quality of service delivered is to embrace new technologies; to overhaul outdated practices and adopt new processes and digital solutions across the entire healthcare industry, extending from our hospitals to care in the home.
One needs to look no further than the finance industry to understand what shape this might take. Financial technology (fintech) has truly revolutionised the way consumers, banks and investors manage their finances and engage with one another. Driven by innovations in the tech space, digital solutions in the form of apps and online platforms have transformed the finance industry, improving the standard of services available and prioritising the interests of consumers. Consequently, red tape was cut and previously cumbersome, drawn-out undertakings were accelerated.
This sort of innovation is not exclusive to the finance industry – the UK is globally recognised for its thriving ecosystem of tech companies, powered by start-ups and high-growth firms. Private capital investment has played a vital role, be it in the form of crowdfunding or equity investment. Now, this same form of innovation is taking hold of the healthcare industry, and recent injections of capital into HealthTech companies signal that 2018 could be the year technological solutions start to significantly transform the country’s healthcare landscape.
The figures don’t lie – the UK’s digital health market is expected to grow by nearly £1 billion in 2018 to reach a total of £2.9 billion, driven predominately by health apps. More generally, the global digital health market is expected to be worth almost £43 billion by 2018.
The NHS has already taken note, with its Five Year Forwarded View making an explicit commitment to creating the conditions necessary for proven innovations to be adopted faster and more systematically through the NHS. Of course, the success of this initiative remains to be seen, and a full review will be required once the five-year term has concluded in 2019.
Nonetheless, by attempting to address the UK’s health issues through all avenues available, there needs to be a willingness for the social adoption of tech solutions in the preventative healthcare space, as well as support for carers.
Prevention is better than a cure, encouraging people to live healthy lives not only promotes the vitality of a population, it also reduces the amount of people relying on public health services. It’s also important to consider the healthcare sector more broadly, and in particular, the services which are employed by both formal and informal carers looking after people within their own homes.
Around one in eight people in the UK identify as informal carers, that is, someone who gives regular and ongoing assistance to another person without payment. And as baby boomers enter retirement, it is projected that there will be over 9 million informal carers in the UK in 20 years’ time. Despite informal care affecting a significant portion of the country, this section of our healthcare sector is still forced to rely on archaic organisation process at odds with the accessible technology – namely smartphones and tablets – currently on offer. Family disputes, emotional strain, financial stress, and the time burden placed on informal carers are the source of much pressure, and the Government cannot overlook their needs.
Across different industries, online marketplaces and mobile apps are offering hybrid solutions for consumers, allowing people to both search and pay for services through one online ecosystem. When it comes to healthcare, this type of technology can ensure that people are more autonomous in their ability to manage their healthcare issues, while at the sametime alleviating some of the demand placed on public health services. By better connecting care in communities – linking healthcare service providers with those in need – the burden on the NHS can be reduced. Indeed, promoting self-management is an important objective for the UK’s healthcare sector, and something digital solutions are naturally inclined to promote.
Looking to 2018, there is much scope for the Government to encourage the adoption and promotion of tech in healthcare. It should see the coming 12 months as an opportunity to adopt a more proactive approach towards digital adoption, both within the NHS, and more generally in areas that promote preventative care and affect informal carers. Meanwhile, the private sector is charged with the job of creating and developing new digital solutions – a responsibility that lies not just with the businesses but also the investor community that supports them. There’s no questioning the amount of entrepreneurial talent currently on offer within the HealthTech space; what we need to see is this creative potential harnessed so that digital solutions can improve the way the country manages its healthcare services. The UK’s future generations are relying on it.
Co founder and Chairman of Lavanya Plus