It is an undeniable fact that the advances in the miniaturisation and connectivity of technology has opened up amazing opportunities for the broader health industry. However, arguably, unlike general consumer-facing opportunities in technology, those in the health industry tend to treat the opportunities with a large degree of what I would consider unhealthy scepticism.
One reason for the cautionary approach to tech within the care industry is expense. Investment and roll out of new technology can be costly in both time and monetary terms and for this reason, the care industry needs to be sure that it is investing in the right technology. Will tech assist in the daily duties of care workers? Will it enhance users independence? And most importantly, will it keep the wearer safe?
The technology industry must work hard to create solutions that can enhance the care sector without enormous cost, but the care sector must also get actively involved in this development. A collaborative approach between the tech and care industries will see the greatest advancements being achieved in the shortest periods. By making technology, such as the RightMinder app, free at the point of download, users are able test the technology and ensure that it is right for them, before investing vast sums of money.
Progress through failure
Scepticism is not only due to cost, but also an acknowledgment that along with these advances, there is a "weight" of perfection that must be adhered to when dealing with people's health. Any tech that the healthcare industry invests in must be accurate and reliable, after all people’s wellbeing could be at stake. However, without healthcare bodies joining forces with technology developers to test, develop and enhance healthcare technology it is at risk of stagnating. A collaborative approach will help both parties by advancing healthcare technology, whilst simultaneously offering improved healthcare provisions.
The challenge for the health industry, however, is that sometimes this scepticism can act as a barrier to action when it comes to implementing small advances which can potentially add up to ground-breaking movements in health care.
Progress is made through testing, breaking, failing, winning and moving forward - however, the established cautious nature of those in tech-health, especially in management, could be limiting the "small win" progress which is so important to developments in tech-health.
As the population in the UK gets older, we must work hard to keep the independence and self-confidence of this group in society. However, this is not an easy, or necessarily affordable, process. By embracing tech in the UK, I believe that the care industry, whether this be for the elderly or those with disabilities that require additional assistance, will soon start to reap the benefits. These benefits will not only be financial but they will also help to save time for both the NHS and private medical services as well as family members and independent carers too.
Embracing tech everywhere
It is also hugely important to preserve the independence of young individuals needing care. With the increasing affordability of technology such as smartwatches individuals can benefit from apps such as RightMinder in a discreet way that does not impact on their independence.
In a time when tech surrounds us and plays a huge part in our daily lives, now is the time to truly embrace this in every aspect of our life, including healthcare. As the cost of care homes and carers increase and the cost of tech, such as smartphones and smartwatches decrease, it is a sound economic decision to take a joined-up approach between the two.
RightMinder is working towards utilising the connected nature of both in-home and out-of-home technologies which are influenced by an occupant’s daily routine. We expect that as we develop, other parts of the industry will too. This will include everything from NHS funded hospitals to independent practitioners which again, is another reason why we must embrace the tech now.
RightMinder is about taking a comparative small-win (albeit a world-first) and implementing life-changing moments through the use of generic tech, such as the readily available Android Smartwatches.
The future presents a huge opportunity for smaller tech innovations such as apps. Advancements in battery longevity and charging have the ability to revolutionise sensor technology and in turn, the healthcare industry. If charging of devices and concerns about battery life depleting too quickly become more minimal and if the care industry get involved during this testing phase it can benefit as soon as products are ready. Discrete technology will no longer be seen as something from a sci-fi film, instead it will become commonplace.
Convincing the industry
Fundamentally, the challenge for the technology industry lies in convincing the healthcare industry to get on board with the development of new technology. The technology must be giving the healthcare industry a reason to welcome new advancements. If care providers are resisting change, then so too are those working for them and those in their care. The tech industry needs to promote a collaborative approach to finding solutions that can enhance care providers’ offerings, make the jobs of their staff more straightforward and offer added care to customers. The best way to ensure that this is the case is by being involved with early developments and placing an active role in their advancement.
In summary, it is true to say that as far as tech and healthcare are concerned the opportunities are out there to be taken. Care providers will need to make the leap into using technology whilst ensuring that any associated cost is offset by benefits to their business and clients – and it is the responsibility of the tech industry to facilitate this leap. Iterative change will, in the long run, be far more beneficial to users of tech and allow them to come on board at the point that is right for them. We will never find one tech based solution that can do everything – so we need to help educate the healthcare industry on why their input and collaboration is so important.
Ben Slater, Co-Founder of RightMinder (opens in new tab)
Image source: Shutterstock/Wichy