Ritam Gandhi, Director and Founder of Studio Graphene, shares his experience and insight with Care Sector Hub
In 2016, Transparency Market Research valued the global digital health market at $179.6 billion. By 2025, this figure is forecast to reach a massive $536.6 billion.
Evidently, the rise of health technologies – or HealthTech – is going to be exponential in the coming years. From mobile health apps that monitor your heart rate and blood pressure through to online platforms that make it easier to see a medical professional, there’s no denying that this huge range of new tech solutions emerging is both exciting and revolutionary.
Here in the UK, startups and entrepreneurs have been taking advantage of things like Artificial Intelligence (AI), big data and the Internet of Things (IoT) to see how they can better improve people’s access to health and care services.
With the UK currently spending some £20 billion on the social care sector every year, there are significant advances to be made in this specific area too, and 2019 is bound to see a number of exciting new apps and devices launch to market. But how exactly is new tech changing the way people can monitor and manage the health of themselves or others?
Wearable devices take-off
An obvious example of the way tech is changing the day-to-day management of our physical wellbeing is through wearable devices. The uptake has been noticeably strong – in fact, according to Statista, the number of wireless connectable wearable devices reached 453 million in 2017. By 2021, this has been forecasted to reach 929 million.
The popularity of health monitoring technologies like the Fitbit is a great example – often these devices use existing tech to create a wireless-enabled unit that can measure all types of data, ranging from the number of steps taken by the user to their heart rate. But this goes beyond merely collecting information for fitness fanatics – now, these technologies are capable of detecting and predicting health problems, and recommending lifestyle changes to help address particular health issues.
The potential benefit of this on our public healthcare system is extraordinary. Imagine being told that your blood pressure is likely to rise based on your current lifestyle – by making small adjustments to your diet or social activities, you are in position to better manage your health and reduce the chances of suffering from a long-term problem. Both the individual and the healthcare sector – particularly the NHS – stand to benefit dramatically from this proactive approach.
Supporting the UK’s carers
Meanwhile, user-friendly mobile apps and online platforms have been revolutionising the way professional and informal carers are able to manage their caretaking responsibilities, while at the same time enhancing their ability to look after the health and wellbeing of patients or loved ones.
Jointly App, for instance, simplifies a carer’s duties through an online app, which facilitates communication within organisations, allowing them to divvy up tasks, and keep track of current and past medications being taken. Gone are the days of needing to fill out countless forms or keep a paper trail of a patient’s records – now this can all be accessed via your smartphone.
Technological solutions like these can offer medication reminders, the ability to effortlessly share information, and even to remotely monitor the health and activity of patients. In doing so, they make life easier for carers and relieve the pressure that they face. Most importantly, apps such as Jointly are cost-effective and readily accessible, making them an ideal solution for organisations large and small.
Furthering your charitable cause
Looking to the third sector, charities are also seeing the potential of tech in furthering their cause – a mission we’re all too familiar with at Studio Graphene. Recently, we held a competition offering to design and built a not-for-profit app idea entirely free of charge. The winner was Signalong – a children’s communications skills charity.
To show just how tech could be harnessed to improve their cause, our team was able to build an app that would prove invaluable to users with hearing impairments or communication difficulties. With access to Signalong’s extensive sign language database, the AI-enabled app allows users to take photographs of everyday objects on their smartphone, with its recognition technology then informing the user of the correct sign to use. The app can be used for the hearing impaired and their carers, as well as those with communication difficulties.
Importantly, this wasn’t a novel or overly-complex idea. Quite clearly, it demonstrated just how small organisations and charities such as Signalong could embrace technology to increase their impact.
The lesson to be learnt is that technology is a powerful force for good and, moreover, the tech is often within reach of even micro-organisations that are trying to make a difference within the health and care space. What’s needed is creativity: start with the problem you want to solve, and then worry about the technical aspects of how to build the solution afterwards. For those looking to create a digital product or service from scratch, agencies like Studio Graphene are at the ready to lend a helping hand, providing the technical expertise needed to bring their vision to life.