Ehealth covers many different technologies that have the potential to alter the way health services are delivered (King’s Fund 2016).
Smartphones and wearables
Over 70 per cent of all UK citizens have a smartphone (Nuffield Trust 2016) but only 2 per cent report any digitally enabled transaction with the NHS (Nuffield 2016). However between 2014 and 2016 the use of health apps more than doubled and use of wearable technology (such as activity tracking devices) tripled (Accenture 2016).
The networking capability of online platforms bring together people with interests in health and care within countries and across the world to support each other, share learning and even provide a platform for tracking their health data or helping them manage their condition. An example of a such a community is PatientsLikeMe. PatientsLikeMe is a patient website which was launched in 2005. Its goal is to connect patients with one another, improving their outcomes, and enabling research.
A blockchain is “a shared, trusted, public ledger that everyone can inspect, but which no single user controls. The participants in a blockchain system collectively keep the ledger up to date: it can be amended only according to strict rules and by general agreement” (The Economist 2015). Blockchain technology will underpin the sharing of health records (Government Office for Science 2015, Government Office for Science 2016).
Machine learning/cognitive computing
Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that enables computers to learn without being explicitly programmed. They can teach themselves to change when exposed to new data. Google DeepMind is one example of this. The DeepMind Health project has developed a number of applications including HARK, that uses a detection algorithm to flag up suspected cases of acute kidney injury to clinicians (HARK) Similarly the SEND project captures vital signs observations and flags up deteriorating patients (SEND).
- Accenture (2016). Digital consumer health engagement 2016 – global report 2016
- King’s Fund (2016) Eight digital technologies that will change healthcare
- Nuffield Trust (2016). Delivering the benefits of digital health care
- Government Office for Science (2015) Distributed ledger technology: beyond the blockchain
- Government Office for Science (2016). Blockchain technology
- HARK: Transformative clinical task management
- SEND: System for Electronic Notification and Documentation
- The Economist (2015). The promise of the blockchain The trust machine