Self-care and Smart tech - Health & Wellbeing trends.
by Ellie Hughes

With Global healthcare spend projected to reach $10.059 trillion by 2022, key drivers of the future of healthcare revolve around the increasing role of self-care and smart health technology, as the digital transformation increasingly infiltrates into the health and wellbeing sector.

For many, talk of self-care and smart tech, immediately makes one think of mindfulness apps or fitness trackers but the use of technology in healthcare is evolving and the interest in self-care is gaining pace with Google reporting searches for  the term self-care having tripled in the last 5 years.

What is Self-care?

The majority of people feel comfortable in managing everyday self-treatable conditions such as coughs and colds themselves, especially when they have successfully self-treated on previous occasions with over-the-counter (OTC) products. So self-care doesn’t mean no care.

Self-care is defined by the Department of Health as ‘the actions people take for themselves, their children and their families to stay fit and maintain good physical and mental health; meet social and psychological needs; prevent illness or accidents; care for minor ailments and long-term conditions; and maintain health and wellbeing after an acute illness or discharge from hospital.’

Consumer Healthcare association, the PAGB, has been celebrating it’s 100 years of self-regulation. Self-care has always been at the heart of the PAGBs agenda, first coining the phrase ‘self-care’ in 1972 when it sponsored an NHS Panel on self-care.

In March 2019, PAGB published a Self-Care White Paper, calling for a national strategy for self-care, including several policy recommendations which aim to further embed a culture of self-care in the Nation’s behaviour and as part of the NHS. The NHS has now been talking self-care for a long time but it’s growing importance is being recognised by its inclusion on the national agenda.

bitmap157 million people visit their GP as a result of minor ailment symptoms that could be treated by self-care

Expanding need for Self-care.

The statistics speak loud and clear for the need for reform: 57million people visit their GP and 3.7million people visit their local accident and emergency department as a result of minor ailment symptoms that could be treated by self-care. An estimated £810million is spent on GP’s appointments for self-treatable conditions every year.

With GP surgeries and A&E departments resources stretched, there are many ways we can make better use of the services available and improve our self-care, such as asking the Pharmacists advice on the best medication for your illness. Companies too can play a part in encouraging employee participation in fitness and healthy lunch choices for their staff.

Effective self-care is a lifelong habit, and it means something different to everyone. Whatever self-care looks like to you, your family, or those you care for, it’s an important process that, when done correctly, will enable you to make appropriate mental and physical health choices, use services appropriately and for the benefit of all, and feel empowered to be self-sufficient in your own health care.

Recommendations for improvement include;

  • Allowing pharmacists to access and add to patient records for a joined up care approach
  • Education in schools for self-care of health – both physical and mental
  • Education on which NHS service to use when unwell – Pharmacy, GP or A&E
  • Understanding of health choices and what lifestyle changes to make

bitmap1Over 3 million wrist-worn wearables sold in the UK.

Understanding health and tracking progress.

According to Mintel, over 3 million wrist-worn wearables, such as fitness bands and smart watches, were sold in the UK in 2015, this was up from 1.4 million the previous year. This means 1 in 7 people in the UK own a wearable device, an indication that people are taking more personal responsibility for their health.

But the use of emerging technology in health is advancing far beyond the fitness bands, branching into self-care medical devices such as blood glucose monitors and a recent award-winning App from GlaxoSmithKline ‘Breath of Life’ that tests for chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

Smart tech.

Capitalizing on emerging technology is critical for consumer healthcare and pharma companies if they want to avoid losing market share in the coming years. However there is a fine line between ‘tech hype’ and reality — many of the ideas end up in the bin and few become major breakthroughs.

Some of the greatest recent advances in tech are already paying off, and in many cases occurring without consumers being aware of their power. Take machine learning, once an out-there idea is now becoming the norm. As health tech develops at a pace, more and more innovations are helping to monitor and improve our health and wellbeing.

An example of this is how smartphones are being used to help fight antibiotic resistance. In May the Doctors Without Borders / Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Foundation was awarded a $1.3 million Google Artificial Intelligence Impact Challenge grant to create a smartphone App that will use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse antibiotic resistance tests and recommend treatment in low-resource environments. The grant is part of Google’s “AI for Social Good” program under the leadership of Jacquelline Fuller, President of Google.org, and Jeff Dean, Google Senior Fellow and head of Google AI.

There is often a lack of access to microbiologists to analyse the antibiograms, so to solve this problem, the MSF Foundation team plans to use artificial intelligence to both analyse antibiogram images, and recommend treatment using a smartphone App.

Image processing by computer vision is a growing trend that is part of the AI boom in recent years mostly due to vastly improved pattern recognition precision and capabilities due to deep learning, a subset of AI machine learning with architecture inspired by the biological brain.

Five new AI medical centres to open across the UK next year.

The UK is harnessing the AI boom with plans for five new medical technology centres set to open in the UK next year which will use artificial intelligence to speed up the disease diagnosis. The centres will have software that will digitise scans and biopsies as well as tools that should help speed up the process of conducting early diagnosis.

Based at universities and NHS facilities, in Leeds, Oxford, Coventry and London, the centres are being built with funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, at an estimated cost of £50m. This is all part of the UK Government’s initiative to utilised AI to improve healthcare and treatments.

The new centres should free up more time for NHS staff to spend on direct patient care.

Health Secretary Matt Hancock said:

bitmap1

Artificial intelligence will play a crucial role in the future of the NHS and we need to embrace it by introducing systems which can speed up diagnoses, improve patient outcomes, make every pound go further and give clinicians more time with their patients. As part of our long-term plan, we will transform the NHS into an ecosystem of enterprise and innovation that allows technology to flourish and evolve.

AI is becoming increasingly common in healthcare.

Moorfields Eye Hospital and Google’s DeepMind are implementing an algorithm that will enable computers to analyse high-resolution 3D scans of the back of the eye to detect more than 50 eye conditions.

Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) has paired up with Cambridge-based technology giant Arm to develop smart “person recognition” cameras that can spot intruders and monitor staff on its premises, in a move that could speed up operations and improve security.

UK leading Europe in AI.

The UK has the highest density of AI startups in Europe for health and medical technology. The McKinsey Global Institute paper ‘Artificial intelligence in the United Kingdom: prospects and challengessays that no other country comes close to the US and China in the deployment of AI.

McKinsey estimates that the UK economy “could see an uplift of about 22% in GDP by 2030”, larger than the global average potential of 16%, reflecting the fact that the UK is more ready for AI than others.

They noted the UK’s pockets of innovation, its “significant pool of AI talent”, and its “top AI centres in universities including Cambridge and Oxford”. As well as the UK government’s £1bn package to support AI in higher education and business.

It is still early days for AI adoption, and there are questions about how large the potential could be and what portion the country is likely to capture.

The forecast growth of AI driven smart-tech in the UK means that as a Nation we are well placed to captialise on these tech-driven innovations to improve the management of self-care, thereby managing our own health more responsibly and so reducing pressure on the GP’s and the NHS.

The future of AI in the UK is yet to be written. Diffusion and adoption are still at relatively early stages, but there is already evidence on the ground of the transformational change – both within organisations and in the economy as a whole – that these technologies can bring. A concerted, joined-up, and forward-looking effort from businesses, academia, and the government can ensure that the UK maintains and builds on its leading-edge capabilities, and successfully diffuses AI and its benefits across business.

McKinsey Global Institute.

Ellie Hughes
Ellie HughesDirector of Healthcare Client Services
Ellie is a strategic thinker, fantastic communicator, and has an eye for maximising consumer insights. With over 40 years of experience in the OTC healthcare she's a big name in the industry. When Ellie is not tackling your latest strategic challenge you may find her walking her dog, horse-riding or practicing her listening, coordination and team-building skills with her local bell-ringing crew!

Get in touch with Ellie:

Ellie Hughes
Ellie HughesDirector of Healthcare Client Services
Ellie is a strategic thinker, fantastic communicator, and has an eye for maximising consumer insights. With over 40 years of experience in the OTC healthcare she's a big name in the industry. When Ellie is not tackling your latest strategic challenge you may find her walking her dog, horse-riding or practicing her listening, coordination and team-building skills with her local bell-ringing crew!

Get in touch with Ellie:

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