Digital Health – What’s In Store For 2017?

New technology is emerging all the time which can help us monitor and take charge of our health. With many people increasingly aware of the need to actively work at staying healthy, this kind of digital health technology is growing in popularity.

Used correctly, technology can make it easier and more effective to live a healthier lifestyle as well as keeping track of key indicators of the state of our health. It can also allow people already dealing with medical issues to access help and advice quickly and flexibly, meaning they do not necessarily have to spend time physically visiting their GP every time they need support.

With so many different innovations entering the market on a regular basis, we look ahead to some of the leading digital health trends likely to dominate healthcare in 2017.


Virtual appointments

NHS chief executive Simon Stevens has suggested that in the future patients will start to interact more digitally with the NHS. Stevens has suggest that, for younger people:

“The idea of booking appointments and physically turning up to GP surgeries for routine things is an alien concept.”

Innovations that can help provide healthcare at a distance are sometimes referred to as “telemedicine”. Staff at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust in West Yorkshire have been providing remote healthcare advice to patients in care homes and their own homes since 2011. Patients are able to receive secure video links with qualified nursing staff, meaning they can care for themselves where appropriate, or visit a GP if necessary.

This kind of remote advice service can cut down on the need for patients to book appointments with their GP by allowing them to see whether an issue is likely to need a face-to-face appointment. This is more convenient for patients and saves time for GPs who can then offer a faster service to people who do need a face-to-face appointment.


Digital health and fitness apps

There are over 100,000 apps aimed at monitoring and improving our health. Many of the most popular apps are those based around weight loss and fitness, helping to motivate people and to track their performance over time.

These kind of apps can help to encourage healthy behaviour and may help people deal with health issues, particularly those related to obesity. Crucially, anything that can help people become fitter and healthier is likely to limit the risk of future health issues related to poor diet and fitness.

There are also a number of apps designed to help people with mental health issues. With as many as 1 in 6 people experiencing a mental health problem in any given week, this is an issue which is putting more and more strain on NHS resources. Well-designed apps can start to help patients take more control over dealing with their mental health in conjunction with appropriate professional support.


Peer to peer support

The internet has been one of the key places people with health concerns turn to for advice for some time. However, social media in particular is becoming an important place for the sharing and dissemination of healthcare advice and information.

The internet has also provided an important place for patients to come together and support each other, with this trend only likely to grow in 2017. Examples include websites such as patientslikeme which brings together people living with the same conditions, allowing them to share the experiences and provide both emotional and practical support and advice to each other.

These kinds of community groups are also starting to have an impact on the healthcare industry by providing an avenue to feedback to healthcare providers and drug companies. For example, allowing patients to report back on their experience of taking certain medications in the real world.

Encouraging patients to support each other can improve patient wellbeing and help to spread really useful information about how to cope with various health issues on a day-to-day basis.


Take a more flexible approach to delivering healthcare

East Berkshire Primary Care Out of Hours Service (EBPCOOH) is a non-profit social enterprise providing NHS services including urgent out-of-hours medical care for East Berkshire Clinical Commissioning Groups. We operate across Bracknell Forest, Slough, Windsor, Ascot and Maidenhead.

Providing out-of-hours GP cover allows the NHS to provide a more flexible service that helps match the needs of patients. It also allows doctors more freedom to work when they want, where they want, as often as they want. This makes it more convenient for planning work around commitments such as looking after children.

EBPCOOH take pride in the great working relationships we have with our GPs, many of whom have worked with us for many years. We provide a high level of support, including advice around all the latest issues affecting the profession, including digital health innovations.

To find out more about working as an out-of-hours GP with EBPCOOH, please get in touch or feel free to take a look at our latest job opportunities?