The last three years in the healthtech space have been a buzz of innovation. From great minds doing great things - with compassion and a patient-first approach – to the overnight demands of real-world health emergencies where healthtech became a saviour; even for the previously hesitant.
This period has turbocharged the need, and demand, for healthtech to become a problem solver for patients, clinicians and healthcare organisations. Now we have realised the true transformative benefits of connected healthcare, there is no rewinding the appetite for better healthcare experiences. From private healthcare providers, healthtech innovators, VIMPRO disruptors and the behemoth of the NHS, everyone is invested in a piece of the healthtech pie.
The Phlo Connect team have a fair idea of what’s next, and how we can leverage the trends we are going to see fully emerging in the coming year. It’s a pivotal time as we prioritise personalisation, experience and accessibility.
What we hope is not the start of Skynet (Terminator film franchise reference), are the planned human trials in 2023 of Elon Musk’s Neuralink. This is a brain chip interface which is claimed to have the power to restore vision and movement in people, including those born blind, or suffering body functionality issues as a result of spinal cord injury. Musk has even confirmed he plans to get one of the chips himself.
One for Elon to watch is Synchron, who are already in human trials of their Stentrode implant. This is an endovascular electrode array designed to record or stimulate the brain or nerves from within blood vessels. The science behind this is Neuro EP – the science of restoring, treating and mapping electrical activities of the brain to overcome the physical and mental impacts of damaged neurons.
Self-care isn’t a new trend, but what we are seeing is the sophistication and accessibility of new technology allowing patients the autonomy to manage conditions themselves. There is a significant rise in the range of self-diagnostic kits for assessing skin conditions and wound care, urine testing for UTIs and kidney disease, glucose monitoring and more. And, these at-home kits are all linked to patient friendly apps and virtual clinician appointments. Explore our blog on how self-care is helping the VIMPRO model take root.
Alongside this there is scope for connecting specialist consultants directly with the patients who need them. Think of these as freelance VIMPROs – specialist consultants who want to help patients but not necessarily create their own healthcare business. While the likes of Doctify provide a directory of patient-reviewed specialists, it ends with an email. Seamless integration into booking, consultations and a full healthcare experience is the missing link. There is space for the ‘Shopify of healthcare’ to help reduce the distance patients must go to access the best of the best.
NHS services continue to be overwhelmed and as waiting times increase, patients are turning to specialist healthcare providers to meet their needs. While this is nothing new, the increased volume of it and the fragmented UK healthcare infrastructure makes for a frustrating experience.
A typical patient experience of moving between an NHS GP, NHS dentist, NHS dental hospital, and a private clinic means repeating the same story, the same medications, the same test dates and results each and every time. Details are always going to get lost in the process.
This problem needs to be solved. There are proven implementations of national Electronic Health Records (EHR) that the UK should aspire to. While there have been previous failed attempts to start moving to this model, another approach is needed. Less big consultancies and more bringing in and supporting disrupters.
The NHS does continue to make progress in digitising and making GP records available through the NHS app - a great first step forward. We will see this evolve in 2023 to include being able to request historic records.
But what about healthcare providers outside of the NHS? Digital connectivity is a big one to watch.
While society is more aware of mental health, it feels like an area still in its infancy in the healthtech space. Everyone has their favourite apps that help them unwind (such as Calm or Headspace), and likewise there are new platforms offering online therapy popping up all the time. But it feels like we are only scratching the surface. There is an opportunity for a more holistic approach that offers support, community and medical intervention when required, but what does it look like? I think we will start seeing more of this take shape in 2023.
And some of those treatments themselves? Will the science community overcome the social stigma of psychedelics to develop effective treatments for depression, anxiety, PTSD, addiction and anorexia? A University of Exter-led Ketamine for Reduction of Alcohol Relapse trial is due to expand across seven NHS sites in 2023. A relaxation of requirements for psychedelics research in 2023 may be the next step to opening the door to new and highly effective medications.
We are going to see the utilisation of AI technology delivering human-machine interactions in the consultation space. Healthtech companies like Inicio AI are leading the way.
Chatbots will act as proxies for difficult conversations that patients might be embarrassed to have directly with another human - even a professional clinician. The idea is that some people might find it easier to talk about how they feel to a machine that prompts, transcribes and analyses the conversations before passing it onto healthcare professionals for further analysis and help with treatment.
The patient need not be personally identifiable in this process until they choose to be, and even that could be optional. Virtual consultations could take on a whole new meaning in 2023.
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