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Digital Health - a new revolution

27/10/14

New digital devices are making it increasingly possible to monitor health closely and deliver personalised care.

Health is one story that is never out of the news. Whether it is the structure and funding of the NHS, the impact of modern lifestyles or the latest medical breakthrough, it is a matter in which everyone has a stake. 

The use of digital technology may increasingly play a part in shaping the way healthcare is managed in the future. On one level this will be administrative; notwithstanding the failed project in the 2000s aimed at creating a new NHS computer infrastructure, ministers in the current government have gone on looking towards greater digitisation.

Many of the benefits of this are obvious, such as enabling NHS staff to access important patient data at any time and in any location.

However, the digital influence may go a lot further than that. The Doctors of Data Annual Review has noted the potential for wearable technology to create new paradigms of personal healthcare.

Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment and prescriptions, people can now benefit from devices such as wearable technology that can measure vital body functions and transmit data in real-time using wireless and mobile networks. This will build on developments like genomics, which personalise medicine according to each patient's biological make-up.

This could mean, for instance that the right help can swiftly be found for patients displaying problems. It notes that pharmaceutical companies are increasingly looking to partner with technology firms in delivering solutions.

Indeed, an app from the NHS library called Sleepio, which won the Wired Health Bupa Startup competition, can offer just this sort of help by providing personalised behavioural therapy to those struggling with insomnia.

All this could create a large number of roles for those working in the technology sector who would like to bring these developments to bear in a way that is highly beneficial - saving some lives and improving others.

The M4 corridor may be one area to gain, with its well-established reputation as one of the centres of UK tech. Indeed, Thames Valley Chambers of Commerce has noted one Silicon Valley company has decided to set up a UK base in the region. E-health firm AliveCor now has a base in Slough, and is expanding fast.

Its most notable product is the AliveCor Universal Heart Monitor, an ECG recorder that monitors and stores data on electrocardiogram rhythms. This is being trialled in both the UK and US. If successful, its further development and that of future devices could generate many jobs on both sides of the Atlantic. 

AliveCor is certainly happy with the UK location, stating: "It’s an ideal location as it contains the correct mix of industries that we need and impacts: mobile telecoms, medical technology, secure cloud-based storage and big data analytics The calibre of potential staff and collaborative industry partners is second to none. Also, as this is the EU base, to be close to Heathrow airport is vital to reach all of the EMEA markets."

While AliveCor is a fairly small company, there are indications that the likes of Apple with its Healthbook app are also getting involved in this area. In short, it is clear that there are great potential health benefits to be gained from the use of digital technology - and plenty of firms for whom developing the right products may be very lucrative and create thousands of new jobs.

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