The inaugural DigiHealth Leaders conference, organised by LSX Leaders, arrived in London’s Royal Victoria Dock last week. A showcase of the world’s latest and most innovative digital healthcare technology applications, the two-day event was sure to be inspiring. With devices and applications targeting everything from prevention of acute respiratory disease, to improving quality of life for “locked-in” patients, to gaming, the definition of digital health is broad and complex. However, the overarching theme was clear. The companies and products on offer all aim to improve patient outcomes and experience, be that through prevention, increased compliance, or AI technology for healthcare professionals.

The potential benefits of digital health technologies are undeniable, but this wave of change in the healthcare industry has not come without criticism and backlash. Many doctors and nurses are concerned that such technology could mean that patients lose out on the personal care and human contact that technology could never provide, and deem them less necessary. However, a key emphasis throughout DigiHealth Leaders was the role of digital health in aiding and not replacing healthcare professionals to enhance the patient experience. New technologies can also cut costs for healthcare organisations and the NHS by streamlining the diagnosis and treatment process and increasing patient compliance. Non-adherence to medication alone currently costs the NHS around £500m per year[1], but new technology to improve doctor-patient communication has the potential to reduce this.

One such example is Nucleai, a company that has developed AI software that supports pathologists in the diagnosis of patients by extracting information from biopsies that may otherwise be missed. This can help to ensure that each patient is given the best treatment for their disease, a step toward precision medicine that may not be possible by human judgement alone. Meanwhile, Sonovos is developing devices that can detect chest sounds out of the range of a standard stethoscope. The ability to gain this additional information during a standard consultation could improve diagnosis and avoid the need for more invasive and expensive tests.

In contrast, many companies are providing at-home methods to improve patient compliance. TikTalk is developing a speech therapy platform that integrates widely accepted speech therapy methods and research with speech recognition technology and a fun, interactive gaming system. The aim is to cut the time spent making and travelling to appointments and make the activity exciting and rewarding for children. Rather than rendering speech pathologists useless, the tool would be used by the pathologist to help them track progress and increase the engagement of patients.

In the digital age, it seems as though the use of technology is becoming the norm in almost every sector and soon enough the term “digital healthcare” will be lost as the use of technology for all medical applications becomes standard. For now, innovative ideas continue to transform the industry, both for healthcare professionals and patients.

[1]The True Cost of Patient Non-Adherence Report by Pat Hagan

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