On Saturday I attended the MedTech Conference at the Royal Free. The conference was strongly aimed at equipping us with the skills, knowledge and the networking opportunity required in order to take ideas that have the potential to bring change to our healthcare system and get them into practice. Thanks to UCL’s Medical Society and to all the presenters that kindly gave up their time to speak to us, they were able to deliver an exceptionally inspirational event.
It was made evident through the multiple speakers and talks that healthcare is moving towards a digital era. The future for the NHS lies in the use of computers, sensors and smartphones when delivering care. In the Five Year Forward View, it states that one of the ways they will achieve their goals is through optimising the use of computers and smartphones (https://www.england.nhs.uk/ourwork/futurenhs/nhs-five-year-forward-view-web-version/5yfv-ch4/) This move will ensure the NHS is able to run more efficiently while providing care which is “tailored to the individual“.
Healthcare services such as the NHS continuously touch lives. It is a service we will all seek many times in our lives and even more so as we age and develop chronic diseases, due to the simple fact that we are living longer. However, because of this, the pressures on the NHS will inevitably increase and hence there is a growing need for ideas and solutions that can relieve this.
Your.MD is an example of one company who have developed a solution in the form of an app. The creators wanted to introduce this concept of “pre-primary care” through the promotion of self managed care in order to relieve the pressures on the primary sector. The app has been cleverly set up to allow patients to describe their symptoms to a Personal Health Assistant through a chat. Through the use of language processing, the system matches the symptoms the patient enters to possible conditions. All the information that the app provides has been regulated by the NHS, therefore it is medically accurate. Although the app currently only diagnoses around 300 conditions, the developers aim to reach 3000.
A few weeks ago, as I sat in on the consultations at my GP placement, it was clear the patients had done their research prior to their appointment. However, their knowledge had come from Google. Although Google is great at providing a phenomenal amount of information, for a patient that needs relevant information, Google’s algorithm of ordering the sites according to the ‘most visited’ may not be helpful. Therefore, the Your.MD team have aimed at dedicating their time to put together an easily accessible app to ensure patients can access the right information, so that they are properly educated about their condition and hence they can then proceed to make a well-informed decision as to whether they should seek further help from the primary care sector or not.
There were many other examples too, such as IBM Watson Health which has been used for: drug discovery, improving patient experience, oncology, genomics and so much more (http://www.thememo.com/2016/11/29/ibm-watson-healthcare-app-ibm-watson-hospital-ibm-watson-cancer/). As well as that there were companies like Mercinia Technologies and Health-Tech Innovation LABS who bring innovators together and provide them with the finances and expert guidance to bring their ideas to life. All in all, there were multiple companies/organisations present who all work towards one aim, which is to ensure that they do their best to try and make our healthcare system better.
Although the event was mostly aimed at providing the attendees who had potential ideas/projects in mind with the tips and advice to get their projects going, I still found the event very useful. While I currently do not have any innovative ideas up my sleeves, the event has made me think about health technology and as a result I am now much more eager to keep my eyes open, as I progress through my medical training, for opportunities that have the potential need for innovation.
I thought the conference was great in enhancing our ability to think innovatively in order to bring about change or as one of the speakers put it “disrupt the status quo within the system” in order to improve outcomes and patient satisfaction. It was amazing to be amongst a crowd of immensely curious and inventive individuals. There was a real sense of unity to really want to bring about change for the NHS, a change that can not only empower patients but also help our healthcare system become more efficient and effective.