Until recent years healthcare was an industry structured around the institutions providing it, not those receiving it. The patient played a passive role; their relationship with clinicians fragmented by endless waiting times and cancelled appointments.
Today, the role of the patient is very different. Spoilt for choice in the market and empowered with information on themselves; no longer just a patient, but rather an informed consumer.
It is this change in patient position that is driving tectonic shifts in healthcare. In this era of instant gratification and next day (even same day!) delivery, healthcare must progress to deliver the on-demand, 24-hour service that consumers now expect.
And although we have a way to go, headway is being made by various med-tech start-ups, determined to disrupt an industry that’s been stuck in its ways for too long.
Innovations in wearable med-tech are working to release healthcare from the restraints of the clinic. ViCardio have developed a non-invasive, beat-to-beat wearable blood pressure monitor that collects real-time data. This bracelet-like device offers clinicians invaluable insight into changes in patient blood pressure throughout the day, allowing more accurate and efficient decisions to be made regarding treatment.
Wi-fi enabled armband ‘Current’ is being piloted by the NHS; it remotely monitors patients’ vital signs and alerts clinicians upon detection of warning signs. This allows round-the-clock contact and shows movement towards an era of on-demand care. But the benefits are two-fold; the sense of security this offers patients is likely to drastically reduce unnecessary self-re-admissions, reducing strain on hospital resources.
But it’s not just wearables making a noise in the med-tech industry. Following the likes of Alexa and Siri, AI powered chatbots are slowly moving in. Patients can discuss their symptoms with virtual medical assistant Molly, though chatbot app Sensley. Molly, using algorithms trained on medical literature, then assesses their symptoms and directs them towards necessary care. Like wearables, this has benefits for patients and clinicians alike – providing on-demand medical advice whilst simultaneously freeing up GPs for more complex cases.
So in a world of increasing information and expectations, how will the healthcare industry adapt to align with consumer needs? And is med-tech the answer to a consumer-centric future?