It's not just about using new technology, it's about applying it in new ways
Charting the rise of camera-based technology in healthcare
Oxehealth CEO, Jonathan Chevallier, uses his experience and knowledge of the sector to comment on what he sees as the future of camera-based technology, and the role it will play in healthcare.
1. The continued mass adoption of camera technology
At the turn of the century, cameras were first introduced to a limited number of laptops and mobile phones. But camera technology has quickly become much more common place and is continually being adopted into new devices. Camera technologies are now everywhere, in our TVs and our cars, monitoring our babies and worn by our police forces. And as the pervasiveness of cameras grows their ability to solve real word problems grows with it.
Eye Gaze is one such example of the development of camera-based technology in the healthcare sector. It supports people with severe disabilities, using camera technology to track and scan the eye to sense where the person is looking. It then interacts with this area on the technology they are using. This allows people suffering from motor neurone disease, muscular dystrophy and other impairments to regain independence and open up communication.
2. Mounting pressure on healthcare systems will lead to more adoption of tech-based solutions
The population in the UK is getting older, as it is across the globe, and in 2015 and for the foreseeable future that trend is set to continue. One effect of this ageing population, is an increased strain on our healthcare systems. The impact will force a number of changes:
People will take more responsibility for their own healthcare and this will include elements of home monitoring
Health insurance companies will increasingly promote healthy living and self-management of health into old age
Innovative healthcare providers will look for new models to manage an increasingly aging population
These changes will generally involve much more activity outside traditional healthcare facilities and this in turn will require exploration of new avenues of technology. Camera-based technology is one such avenue that can provide accurate, extended and unobtrusive healthcare monitoring within the home.
3. Increasing level of healthcare monitoring
According to a survey of 10,000 participants, commissioned by GE healthcare, 87 per cent of respondents believe that using technology to monitor health on-the-go will be the most important medical innovation. A big rise in this could be due to the public's increasing familiarity and use of wearable technology. While we're aware of the 'buzz' surrounding wearables, there are many areas where they aren't suitable or appropriate. This in turn, presents a significant opportunity for unobtrusive, low cost, low personal impact camera based technologies.
4. Increasing digital health solutions accepted by the medical profession, and an increase in the number of certified medical technology solutions
Historically, the adoption of new technology, treatments and processes has been slow in the healthcare sector owing to the long process of testing, regulatory approval, conservatism in healthcare professionals and the unwillingness of people to try something new.
I believe we will see more medical technology being trialled and clinically tested, driven by demand from patients and an urgent need by the healthcare industry to explore new ways of supporting the over-stretched healthcare system. That's not to say the tests won't be as rigorous but I think barriers to change will come down as those in the medical profession recognise they need to accept certified digital healthcare solutions and technology.
5. The rise of precision medicine
Precision medicine is where the patient undergoes diagnostic tests to find the direct cause of an individual's disease at a molecular level. A specific treatment plan is then developed to match this and the patient response closely monitored.
We have already witnessed the adoption of these methods in the treatment of cancers and those with inherent genetic risks of developing cancer in the UK. Where genotyping of patients is used to map out sometimes life-long treatment plans.
Looking forward we will see more focus on research into these methods and their application to further areas of disease, with Innovate UK set to establish the first Hub, or Catapult, for precision medicine innovation and commercialisation. Worldwide sales of diagnostic tests and new therapies are predicted to reach £50-60 billion by 2020.
With the rise of precision medicine, comes the need for phenotypic analysis to better understand patient physiology (and so complement genomic analysis) and help monitor the progression of the disease and effectiveness of treatment. This monitoring will need to be supported by advances in technology, including the increasing use of camera-based health monitoring. Our founder, Professor Lionel Tarassenko recently took part in a debate around this very subject.
What else do you see in the future of healthcare technology? Are you already starting to adopt some of the above mentioned technologies or are you hesitant? I'd be interested to hear your thoughts.