Comment: How investment in technology can improve NHS survival rates

Gavin Wheeldon, chief executive of Purple, asks whether investment in technology can help with early diagnosis and treatment and ultimately save lives

Nokiaís Patient Care is an example of new services which help to empower patients and reduce the costs associated with health and care

One of the most-recent reports looking into the NHS made very-positive noises about it being the best, safest, and most-affordable healthcare system out of 11 wealthy countries, ranked by experts from the Commonwealth Fund health thinktank.

That said, it didnít fare so well when it came to being judged on healthcare outcomes, and was ranked at number 10.

As well as the ongoing improvements being made within the NHS, the development of smart, connected devices can help patients manage chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart failure, and strokes

This was because of the success of treatments given. The NHS, it concluded, did very poorly in terms of five-year survival rates for breast and bowel cancer, and deaths among people admitted to hospital after a stroke.

While the reasons for these medical outcomes are wide and complicated, technology is being heralded as a way forward in improving patient care and, ultimately, how patients are treated.

The NHS Five Year Forward View, published earlier this year, pinpointed that harnessing technology and innovation is key to a successful health service and it is currently digitalising a number of hospitals in order to provide a blueprint for other NHS trusts.

A new NHS Digital Academy launched in September to train a new generation of Chief Information Officers and Chief Clinical Information Officers, which, it is hoped, will help with the successful adoption of new information technology and its use to drive quality and efficiency.

They also noted that within the next two years it will, among other things, make patientsí medical information available to the right clinicians wherever they are, and increase the use of apps to help people manage their own health.

Simplified access to patient information can only increase efficiency and treatment.

And, in the long-term, quicker diagnosis could really mean the difference between life and death.

This summer GPs were able to electronically seek advice and guidance from a hospital specialist without the patient needing an outpatient appointment. An updated online appointment system has also been launched, providing the ability to book outpatient appointments with access to waiting time information on a smartphone, tablet or computer. Alerts advise patients which hospitals have longer waits so they can avoid these hospitals if they wish.

Several companies are developing devices which allow the distribution of medicines via embedded microchips. This allows patients to take the right pills at the right time

The NHS hopes that by December this year, Ďevery A&E, urgent treatment centre and ePrescribing pharmacy will have access to extended patient data, either through the Summary Care Record or local care record-sharing servicesí.

As well as the ongoing improvements being made within the NHS, the development of smart, connected devices can help patients manage chronic conditions such as hypertension, heart failure, and strokes.

Nokiaís Patient Care, for example, takes the care out of the hospital and allows patients to remain at home.

The device allows doctors to set upper limits on the management of healthcare issues and flags up abnormalities immediately.

Quick diagnosis and treatment in such cases is crucial. With stroke care being one of the issues identified as an NHS weakness, the opportunity to offer fast patient care increases a patientís chances of survival. Furthermore, with the average cost of £400 a night for each NHS patient, keeping the less-critical comfortable outside of hospital is a significant saving.

Finally, the distribution of medicines is a complicated and expensive business. A National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) report noted that many patients do not take their medication as intended; and hospitals spend around £15.5billion on medicines each year.

If some of those pills are not being used correctly, or at all, the losses could be huge.

Several companies are developing devices which allow the distribution of medicines via embedded microchips. This allows patients to take the right pills at the right time. For those suffering with diseases such as dementia and Parkinsonís; this could be lifesaving.

With the cost of the rise in chronic conditions expected to cost the NHS £5billion a year by 2018; digital technologies can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their own health. They also save money and improve treatment and care

Thereís no doubt that technology has the ability to improve both diagnosis and treatment.

But significant funding is necessary to embrace everything tech companies have to offer.

With the cost of the rise in chronic conditions expected to cost the NHS £5billion a year by 2018; digital technologies can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their own health. They also save money and improve treatment and care.

Moving ahead they will be vital in order for the NHS to survive.

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