It’s not just advancements in medicine which have changed the face of healthcare in the past fifty years. The industry has also been revolutionised by technological innovation which continues to make genuine differences to people’s lives across the world.
From the simple pedometer, developed in the 1700s to break into the mainstream in the 80s, to today’s wearable fitness trackers, mixing technology with health and wellbeing is big business.
Twenty-five million fitness trackers were sold last year and today, around 10 percent of the 1.5 million apps on either of the leading app stores have a focus on health and wellbeing. The potential in terms of using technology to help manage people's health and wellbeing is clear.
But it’s not just personal healthcare which has been transformed. Innovation in hospital treatment has also taken precedent as technology drives the industry forward, including the ongoing use of robotics in surgical procedures.
Whether developed by start-ups such as FitBit (now a $4billion company in just 8 years), to major players like Google (which has recently patented a digital contact lens which aims to change the course of diabetes management by measuring blood glucose levels from tears), healthcare technology is moving fast.
But just how quickly are these advances being adopted by the industry?
We are in the middle of a digital health tech revolution. The advances in healthcare technology are set to change our industry enormously over the next decade.
Just in the past year, tens of dozens of technological innovations have been introduced that we wouldn’t have even thought of a decade ago.
We’re not only seeing breakthroughs from technology invented purely for healthcare, the industry is also adopting trends from other areas and thinking – how can we adapt this for healthcare? This level of thinking is critical, and agrees with Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS England’s Medical Director, who only last year, predicted that health devices will become one of the most important ways of improving the health of the nation.
One example of such cross-over is the introduction of 3D printing. A development which has undoubtedly cut through to the mainstream in the past two years, the biotechnology industry has also adopted the mechanism. From printing living cells, drugs and even bionic ears, the future could result in organs printed at the patient’s bedside.
It’s vital that we do all we can to support innovation. At AXA PPP healthcare, we understand that the way in which consumers increasingly want to access health information and take better care of their health and wellbeing is changing.
Our industry – especially in the UK – can sometimes be seen as notoriously slow in changing with the times. Innovation is happening right now at a rapid rate, and consumers are fast adopting, and expecting, these break-throughs to reach them quickly. It’s vital that we, as well as others in the industry, embrace the technology advances, or we risk being two steps behind our public expectations.
As part of our work to drive innovation, AXA PPP’s Health Tech & You campaign aims to find the newest technology start-ups from across the world who are enhancing health and wellbeing (if you’re a start-up working on the newest healthcare technology, or a user of a new health tech device which is improving your quality of life, the 2017 awards are now open for entry on the Health Tech & You entry site).
Founded by AXA PPP healthcare, Design Museum and 2020health, the programme’s mission is to grow awareness of digital health and to help people understand how technology can give them more control of their health and wellbeing.
But it’s not just us, and those in private healthcare cover who are backing technological changes: the NHS has also opened resources to focus on advances, with a plethora of new apps available to the public. At a time of rising demand for care because of the growing and ageing population, the organisation clearly faces major challenges as budgets are stretched, however the NHS sees it as a priority for the future of healthcare.
One thing is for sure, however. We’ve only just touched the surface of technology developments in healthcare. I’m certain the next decade will be unrecognisable in terms of development in patient health and wellbeing.