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Health Technology: New Ways of Working

Adrian Smith
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One fifth of GPs want to leave the profession within the next year. That’s according to new statistics[1] surveying thousands of doctors who are struggling to cope with the increasing pressure and demands of the job.

The data suggests our ‘production line’ model of care is under strain and can affect the quality of care provided.

Take depression as an example.

A patient visits their GP within an allocated 10-minute window. The patient explains that they’re feeling depressed, they’re given some medication, and sent away. 60% of people respond to the medication within two months, but around 80% of patients have already stopped taking the medication within one month. The problem is not solved, the cycle continues, and cases increase.

What needs to happen, is a proper consultation where the GP talks to the patient without time-pressure, to find out why the patient feels depressed, what’s been happening in their life, and whether medication is the appropriate course of action. The problem is this is unfeasible using today’s model. And with the COVID pandemic, an extra layer of demand has been added.

One of the greatest achievements of modern medicine is simultaneously increasing the burden on our healthcare system. Half of people who are born today will live until they are 100. But there are costs to this feat.

The NHS has an annual budget of around £130bn. Around £100bn of that budget is spent treating long-term conditions like diabetes, high blood pressure, arthritis and asthma. These are diseases that, rather than being caught, can be caused and exacerbated by behavioural and lifestyle factors – such as poor eating and exercise regimes – as well as age. Strokes and heart disease as a result of obesity, or amputations as a result of diabetes, have huge costs to the NHS.

One solution is to help people manage their health better. If we can prevent illnesses and complications rather than manage the symptoms and consequences, we can free up capacity within the healthcare system while improving the health and outcomes of citizens. And that’s where health-technology comes in.

The GPs who indicated that they wanted to leave within a year also stated that they would stay if there was a new way of working. Patient-centric, preventative care that is administered in the community can free-up capacity within the system. In doing so, we can reduce the pressure on GPs, improve the quality of care provided and save lives.

In this series of blog posts, we’ll explore the work the Satellite Applications Catapult and NHS Arden & GEM Commissioning Support Unit are doing to drive innovation in health technology. The series will look at Colon Capsule Endoscopies, the care home pathway, and connected ambulances.

[1] https://www.bma.org.uk/media/4055/bma-survey-april-2021-uk-overall-snapshot.pdf