HealthTech: innovation changing healthcare
We’re in poor health. Over 61% of UK adults are now overweight or obese. Plus, incidences of the vitamin C deficiency, scurvy, are up by 27%. The situation isn’t helped by the fact that almost one third of patients have difficulty trying to get a GP appointment.
Luckily for us, HealthTech has our backs.
Smart new innovations are providing solutions to a multitude of health problems. Here are just a handful of examples of HealthTech we think will make a big difference.
Many health insurance providers are now providing their customers with free smartwatches or trackers when they take out a policy. It may seem like corporate generosity, but these insurers have their reasons. A customer who exercises regularly is probably healthy – so less likely to claim on their insurance. Of course, there are benefits for the customer, too. The less likely you are to claim, the lower your insurance premium or excess may be.
Scientists are currently developing wearables capable of analysing sweat. Sounds gross, but there’s a good reason for it. By measuring chemicals in the sweat like sodium, potassium, glucose, and lactate, it can provide detailed information about how the body is responding to exercise. This could allow an athlete to respond more quickly to complications like dehydration and fatigue.
‘Big data’ simply means any data set too large to analyse with traditional methods.
Thanks to the massive improvements in medical science, we’re now able to collect and store vast amounts of patient data from things like MRI scans and genetic analysis. It’s difficult to extrapolate findings from small data sets, so the more information scientists have, the better. Analysing this big health data is very time and labour intensive, but luckily there are HealthTech innovations that can help.
For example, Cambridge tech company, Optalysys, are developing a system for analysing big data using only light. By applying light energy at incredibly high speeds and frequencies, Optalysys are able to perform mathematical functions like a supercomputer. This technology could be applied to a wide range of data analysis, and is could be explored for the possibility of analysing the Human Genome.
Cancer Research UK have created an even more unique way to analyse DNA data, and help identify faulty genes that might be responsible for cancer. They’ve created a computer game, Genes in Space.
The developers responsible have visually depicted genetic data as space rocks. By flying your rocket through the obstacles, scientists can identify any patterns in the data. They can then analyse these data patterns to establish a common genetic link in cancer. Pretty cool, right?
It seems there’s an m-health app for almost anything, which is good news for anyone who wants to gain more control over their health.
Pregnancy app, Bonzun, was developed specifically to eradicate preventable pregnancy complications. While there are plenty of free pregnancy apps available, it seems many do little more than compare the size of your baby to a piece of fruit.
Bonzun allows pregnant women to track all their test results. It also provides the ability to check any symptoms they might be having against pregnancy-specific health advice provided by medical professionals. By keeping an eye on these, it flags any abnormalities, and allows mothers to seek medical help as soon as possible.
For those who find getting a GP appointment to be a struggle, m-health app Babylon Health, can help provide a solution.
The app allows users to ask health questions to medical doctors by live chat, order test kits, and book an appointment to video call a doctor or therapist. As it’s all done from your mobile, you can never be ‘too busy’ to speak to your doctor. Hopefully this will encourage more people to put their health first.
Internet of things
We think there are some really exciting internet of things developments likely to happen in the HealthTech sector in the very near future.
Scientists are currently working on a really clever bit of tech called Strokefinder. When a patient suffers a stroke, fast treatment greatly increases a patient’s chances of recovery. This is complicated, however, by the fact there are two different types of stroke, and the treatment for one can make the other worse.
This is where Strokefinder comes in. It’s a sort of helmet with sensors, which paramedics apply to a patient. The sensors emit and receive microwave signals that scatter off brain tissue, identifying healthy tissue and bleeds. Strokefinder will diagnose the type and location of the stroke, and communicate the information to the hospital via the internet. This way, staff at the hospital are prepared to treat the stroke patient as soon as they arrive.
Another internet of things development with the potential to disrupt the health sector is smart packaging. Usually, smart packaging simply serves to keep its contents fresh.
However, currently in development are medicine containers that can identify whether or not the patient has been taking their prescription. If not, the container can ping a reminder straight to your smartphone. And if that doesn’t make a difference, it can notify your doctor. For those who rely on medication, this could make a huge difference.
The future of health is digital
Health will always be an emotive subject, with people keen to do what’s best for themselves and their families. In our eyes, anything that helps people feel more in control of their health and their bodies is good news.
What’s your favourite piece of HealthTech? Or how do you hope to see the health industry disrupted by tech in the future?
We’d love to hear your thoughts.