Former health minister calls for NHS to embrace new technology

Labour MP, Ben Bradshaw, calls for more to be done to utilise technology to help people with autism lead independent and fulfilling lives as he visits offices of BBH Award-winning firm

MP, Ben Bradshaw, visited the office of Brain in Hand, a winner in last year\'s Building Better Healthcare Awards

Former health minister, Ben Bradshaw, has called on the NHS to improve its use of innovative technology in order to help people with autism to lead more independent and fulfilling lives.

We know the NHS faces a huge financial burden and that too many people can’t access the support they need, often because of overstretched local services, or high care thresholds

He spoke out to coincide with National Autism Week as part of a visit to the offices of Brain in Hand, an assistive technology company based at the University of Exeter’s Innovation Centre.

The company, which was the recipient of the 2013 Building Better Healthcare Award for Best Health Technology Product, provides innovative assistive technology accessed through smartphones to support people with autism and other potentially-debilitating conditions.

Bradshaw said: “Brain in Hand is a fantastic example of an organisation which is using technology to help individuals take control of their own support and care. We know the NHS faces a huge financial burden and that too many people can’t access the support they need, often because of overstretched local services, or high care thresholds.

“Technologies like Brain in Hand offer simple solutions that actually put the most-important people - those with the condition - in charge of developing and managing their own support system. It’s personalisation of care through a supportive and collaborative, clinically-proven, approach.”

Around 700,000 people in the UK are estimated to have autism, including conditions like Asperger’s Syndrome, a developmental disability that can cause problems with communication and social interaction.

According to Andrew Stamp, chief executive of Brain in Hand, mobile e-Health solutions will change how we think about care forever. Rapid growth in health and lifestyle mobile smartphone technology has seen the market rocket from a global turnover of $100m in 2010 to $4billion in 2013. This market is estimated to reach $26billion by 2016.

Stamp said: “How we receive and consume healthcare is going to change forever. People want to get on with their lives and not be held back by the inefficiencies of the old way of doing things, restrained by standardised care from an overburdened system designed in the 1950s and stretched to the limit.

The NHS could save hundreds of millions of pounds and help champion the emergence of a new and more-personalised approach to healthcare if it embraced a simple piece of kit that most of us already take for granted – the smartphone

“The NHS could save hundreds of millions of pounds and help champion the emergence of a new and more-personalised approach to healthcare if it embraced a simple piece of kit that most of us already take for granted – the smartphone.

“What we’ve done at Brain in Hand is taken the best of clinical excellence, put it in the smartest technology, and tailored it to make it easy to use in the real world. It is a truly patient-centred model of care, equips people with tools to use on the go, and connects patients to the medical community through the cloud.”

Brain in Hand’s innovative technology allows people to deal with problems as they arise by planning solutions in advance, which are then accessed by smartphone. Detailed schedules and activity lists cover everything from shopping and visiting friends, to work tasks and being at college.

The simple smartphone interface is backed by an advanced system that monitors responses to problems 24/7, connecting to bac- up support and a mentor if anxiety levels escalate. All the while data is gathered to review how situations are managed, so coping strategies can be refined and developed on an ongoing basis.

Adrian Moore, 45, a self-employed computer engineer in Kingsbridge, Devon, has Asperger’s Syndrome and has been using Brain-in-Hand for more than a year.

“Noise is a big issue for me,” he said. “I just can’t block it out. I have schedules with solutions for when it’s too noisy, too crowded, if there’s a change of plan, or even for when I get lost in the car.

“This condition doesn’t go away and doesn’t get any easier. It’s actually getting harder with age. You find ways to hide it and disguise it, but that’s not necessarily always good because you have to deal with it, and that’s what Brain-in-Hand helps me do every day.”

Brain in Hand is an example of how technology can help people to lead independent and more-fulfilled lives