Today’s healthcare systems depend on an outdated communication model that constantly tests the patience of their patients. But British healthcare technology company, Medopad, is creating a new world where clinicians and patients have data-led conversations that track symptoms, treatments, side effects and monitors them in real-time.
By Darius Meadon, Head of Marketing, Medopad
Imagine for a moment that you are diagnosed with a serious disease. You wake up with it every morning. You go to sleep with it every night. It drains you physically and emotionally. You start missing out on things you used to love doing.
Now imagine there are a billion people just like you.
It’s often the case that those who stand to gain the most from technology are the last to benefit from it. Nowhere is this truer than in healthcare, where there’s an untapped opportunity to vastly improve the quality of life for billions of people. In our current healthcare systems, the people most affected by inefficiencies and bad design are those who suffer from chronic, rare, and complex diseases. From the UK and US in the West to China in the East, this cohort is often the most expensive of all in terms of national healthcare budgets. Yet their health is monitored just 3-5% of their time, with hospitals having little or no visibility of their conditions between visits.
At Medopad, we believe one of the most significant advances that can be made to improve life worldwide is through better healthcare. The rapid adoption of mobile technology with improved hardware and battery life means that for the first time we have the ability to collect large enough data sets to apply machine learning and AI to better understand human health. Couple this with the increasing readiness of people to engage with their health via wearables and applications and we predict a profound shift in the way people will relate to their health as well as healthcare systems.
What does this shift mean for patients and their care teams?
This shift has led some, like the distinguished healthcare expert, Baroness Julia Neuberger, to go as far as asking whether the word ‘patient’ is still appropriate to use, since it continues to conjure up a vision of quiet suffering. The word ‘patient’ is derived from the Latin ‘patiens’, from ‘patior’, which means to suffer or bear. The patient, in this language, is passive – bearing whatever suffering is necessary and tolerating patiently the interventions from their care team. This jars with the emergent, digitally-savvy person who searches for their symptoms online and tracks their daily step count and the number of hours slept. But, so far, the idea of an active patient presents a contradiction in terms – something we, at Medopad, are committed to changing.
We are helping to create a future where clinicians and the people they treat have more data-led conversations, where both parties make use of data, like real-time tracking of symptom progression, treatment side effects, medication adherence, and dosage tracking. For patients, this means the possibility of better clinical outcomes, intelligent appointment sharing, and reduced travel time. For clinicians, it means time and workload optimisation. Through patient interaction and passive data gathering via smartphones and smartwatches, people will be able to avoid going to the hospital when it’s not needed, while technology utilises the vital data from the 97% of the time they’re not in the hospital.
This is just the beginning
At Medopad, our mission is to get people comfortable with using technology to share data with their care teams. We currently use activity data from cardiology patients who routinely take a ‘six minute walk test’. The test, involves patients walking up and down hospital corridors for six minutes to see how far they can walk, but can now be completed at home using the Medopad app on a wearable device.
Working with the University of Göttingen, we’ve demonstrated that the data that’s collected remotely from this test is as accurate as data collected in a clinical setting.
This opens up many opportunities to allow people the flexibility to complete their tests in more convenient locations with the same accuracy. This month, our research article in the scientific health journal ESC Heart Failure – the journal of the Heart Failure Association of the European Society of Cardiology – found the system allowed for “continuous and secure transmission of the patients’ relevant health data to the treating physician”.
Most symptom monitoring and progression doesn’t even require sophisticated gadgets and hardware beyond the smartphones people carry. Using existing mobile phone technology we’ve pioneered a new way to assess the rate of deterioration of people with Parkinson’s. Instead of going to a clinic for an assessment that usually takes 30 minutes under the watch of a clinician – Medopad and the Chinese multinational Tencent created a joint research and development initiative that uses AI to detect and rate body movements wherever they are through only a phone camera. The technology has the potential to speed up these assessments to under three minutes outside a clinical setting, making it easier and more convenient to get and share more accurate patient data.
Once medical teams begin to note changes as they happen, they can also see the trends and intervene at the most appropriate moment. If the time a person takes to do a six-minute walk drops by 20%, or the range of motion of a Parkinson’s patient declines dramatically, then doctors can intervene quickly enabling the entire healthcare system to move from curative to preventative.
Innovation through collaboration
It’s important for us to acknowledge that we’re not alone in our journey and we can’t achieve our mission of extending a billion lives without the help of others. Our partners at Apple have subsequently conducted a study with Stanford University’s School of Medicine to determine how accurate the latest Apple Watch is in identifying atrial fibrillation through its enhanced ECG functionality. The results were incredibly encouraging for those in digital health: 84% of the time, participants who received irregular pulse notifications were found to be in atrial fibrillation at the time of the notification.
Heart sensors also vastly expand the opportunities for using the device in remote patient monitoring, allowing healthcare teams and patients to share validated information on an ongoing basis. These advances in hardware technology open up new possibilities in terms of healthcare applications, monitoring, and even treatment. This means the door is open to widespread consumer understanding and ultimately adoption. Now is the time for the UK health and tech communities to come together to pioneer solutions to advance global health. To do this we need to convene the largest companies and the people who have the biggest and best ideas.
London has the highest concentration of world-leading teaching hospitals, the largest health organisation in the world, the NHS, and some of the leading minds, research centres and companies in AI are being pioneered here. There’s also widespread interest in the greater partnership between private and public sectors as the British Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, continues to reinforce the point that the NHS is embarking on a huge digital transformation and modernisation effort. The Long Term Health Plan, launched by the NHS, recognises the need for a standardised framework for the NHS to engage with private companies in a way that manages both patient data and clinical expertise for which it is responsible.
With its excellence in medical care, research, technology, and public and private partnerships, alongside the rise in awareness and consumer adoption of wearable tech, the UK is poised to be a leader in global digital health. Ultimately, this will come through collaboration and partnership between large tech companies, corporate players, and new health tech innovators working together around the world to solve today and tomorrow’s health challenges.
Our vision is to create a united health ecosystem that could truly transform people’s lives and help one billion people live longer. We recognise that this audacious goal can only be achieved through collaboration. Together, we can unite the biggest, best, and most inventive solutions around the world to improve people’s lives.