Technology is set to revolutionise the future of health and social care, and with over 100,000 health apps now available in the UK this transition is already well underway.
In its simplest form, connected health refers to solutions that use technology to deliver healthcare remotely, allowing more efficient monitoring, patient identification and behavioural analysis.
Digital technologies can empower patients and carers by giving them more control over their own health, however if you look at the solutions available at the moment they are a bit like islands without an ark. So much data is being created on a daily basis but there is no link to bring all of this information together to make sure that appropriate actions are prescribed and delivered upon.
Connected health has the potential to remove voids in medical history, but not in its current form.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), there are almost a billion people globally who suffer from a chronic disease. They predict that by the end of this year the global telehealth industry will be worth $18bn, with a rapid rise anticipated in the years to come. One forecaster from the market watcher Machina Research has estimated that by 2020 this figure will have increased to $69bn.
Companies in Northern Ireland have been very proactive in this field and a lot of exciting research is taking place at our universities, health trusts and the Northern Ireland Science Park.
The focus is on a ‘full circle’ approach. We want to get people back out of hospital, living independently in their homes with monitoring devices in place to ensure that data is being sent to the relevant people at the right time. This is particularly important right now in the United Kingdom as the stretched National Health Service searches for efficiencies to tackle a predicted £30bn funding gap by 2018.
The Connected Health Innovation Centre (CHIC), a local organisation, is playing a key role in facilitating collaboration and innovation between home-grown companies. CHIC is leading transformational research which aligns care needs with technology providers, researchers and clinical experience. It has already attracted membership from well-known companies including Randox and academic institutions such as Ulster University, who are working alongside smaller companies to develop new ideas.
The connected health sector is still in its early stages and having access to an organisation that promotes engagement within forward thinking companies in Northern Ireland has been invaluable to our own R&D as we develop solutions.
Working as part of a consortium, The Lava Group has secured £100,000 of funding from CHIC to invest in R&D for our latest piece of behavioural analysis technology, a new product which will monitor agitation levels in dementia and autism patients within the home or residential care environment.
The funding will support the development of a non-obtrusive system to provide long-term assessment of the environment and physiological metrics of the patient. Through repeated monitoring during periods of agitation we hope that our device will have the potential to forewarn carers that agitation is likely and identify the root cause ahead of the behaviour change in order to reduce the influences of triggers.
Around the world companies like ours will be bringing solutions to the market in the coming years and we will experience big changes in how we receive medical treatment. We are likely to see multiple items of technology used to provide data which can then be analysed. Symptoms will be monitored and blood pressure changes will be detected and reported.
Connected health is a sector which is moving forwards quickly and we are looking forward to being part of helping it discover its full potential.
This article can be found in Ulster Business, visit www.ulsterbusiness.com