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The healthcare technology revolution that might be on the horizon

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Healthcare hasn't beenrevolutionised by technology in the same way that the mobile in your pocket orthe way you access information has been. This hasn't gone unnoticed.  The NHSTechnology Adoption Centre was formed in 2007 in response to criticisms thatthe NHS was too slow at adopting new technology.  Its main aims are to assess thecost-effectiveness of new technology and to encourage the use of technologythroughout the NHS.

There's also the NHS Connectingfor Health programme which, amongst other things, is meant to deliver acentralised NHS patient record system and electronic prescriptions.  The programme has been marred since inceptionhaving missed many deadlines and running substantially over cost but itcontinues to trundle on.  Electronicprescriptions will come one day - or so we're promised.

But that's enough on the boring useof technology.  There's a lot moreinteresting things out there, an example of which is Vitality GlowCaps.  Currently available in the US for $10 (£6.20)then $15 (£9.30) a month, it is essentially a very smart medicine bottlecap.  It reminds patients to take theirmedication at the appropriate time by flashing and playing a melody, and ifthat goes unheeded, by calling a house or mobile phone.  It records when medication is taken andemails reports to friends or relatives and health care professionals.  When the user see they're close to runningout they need only push a button to order a repeat prescription from theirpharmacy.

Vitality claims the use of theircaps results in markedly increased levels of adherence with improvements of 27%seen in early data from a randomised control trial run by Harvard MedicalSchool.  They claim the cost of theirproduct is more than offset by the cost savings in the form of less treatmentrequired for worsening of conditions resulting from poor adherence.  These claims, at face value, make sense.  Reports of medicine use would certainly beuseful during medicine use reviews.  Perhapsone day we'll see the use of smart bottle caps become commonplace in the NHS.

It's interesting to observe thedifferent direction healthcare technology is heading in Asia compared to the West.  A portable ECG machine here would cost around$5,000 whereas in Asia they're around $500. In a recent article The Economist claims there are two mainreasons for this price disparity. The first is that the West is insensitive toprice as healthcare is provided by the state or private insurance whereas inAsia treatment it is often paid for directly. The second is that it is a lot more expensive to bring a product tomarket in the West.

The trends driving the growth ofcomparatively cheap medical devices in Asia are expected to prevail for a longtime yet.  There's no reason why the Westcan't benefit from this. The Economist makesthe comparison with what happened to the car market when Japanese cars enteredthe fray i.e. improved quality at lower prices.

At a time of spending constraintanything that makes things cheaper and also improves health outcomes would be amuch needed boon.

Vitality GlowCaps cap and hub

Vitality GlowCaps

 

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