The issues facing the NHS, both now and in the future, are wide and in some instances complex. According to the King’s Fund, an independent charity working to improve healthcare in England, there are demographic changes in the UK meaning that there is an ageing population and more people are facing chronic diseases which is placing greater strains on the NHS. In addition, it is widely reported that the NHS is facing funding shortages which will add further pressures to its ability to provide necessary healthcare.
It is not just the public sector that is facing such concerns, the private sector needs to adapt to the changing landscape of healthcare. An area that both the public and private sector need to adjust to and progress in is in their use of technology. Technology, as it has in many markets, is transforming the healthcare marketplace almost beyond recognition from what it was a decade ago. The proliferation of technology within the healthcare marketplace, from medical data analysis to sleep improvement apps for your smartphone, is having a profound effect on both patients and providers.
Technology is able to support and enable and it can do this in various ways from providing information and advice to patients to aiding the diagnosis of a condition. Technology, because it can help in such a variety of ways, has the potential to create greater efficiencies within the healthcare sector by ensuring that the right people are receiving the right care at the right time.
Undoubtedly, there will need to be further research and development in this area to ensure that healthcare technologies are able to transform the healthcare sector to the point where the sector is able to face the pressures with which it is challenged. The challenge of developing both suitable and wanted technologies is falling largely at the feet of technology companies. Moreover, such companies will need to ensure that what is manufactured is compliant with relevant regulations and legislation such as the Medical Devices Regulations (2002) (as amended). In addition, if it is a medical device then the manufacturer will most likely need to be registered with the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (the “MHRA”).
Nevertheless, healthcare technology appears to be a permanent addition to the tools with which healthcare providers can help patients and a resource with which patients or potential patients can more effectively manage their health. A number of healthcare technologies are being used by individuals through to general practitioners. However, these new technologies have not been widely deployed throughout the healthcare sector.
The Care Quality Commission’s (the “CQC”) recent report “The state of adult social care services 2014 to 2017” highlights that a number of institutions are failing on safety and giving an improper standard of care. The report outlines the areas and institutions which are providing a good standard of care and also covers ways in which care providers can improve the standard of care they provide. The CQC notes that high-performing providers deliver their service in an individualised way. This individualised care, in a number of cases, is being delivered through an effective use of technology. The fact that technology is being used effectively at this moment is a good barometer that the use of technology in healthcare is not just plausible but sustainable.