Innovating the New Normal of Health and Wellbeing with Ubiquitous Connectivity
Innovating the New Normal of Health and Wellbeing (Part 3) – Bringing Care Closer to Home with Ubiquitous Connectivity
COVID-19 has had a profound impact on healthcare, with hospitals, GP practices and care homes across the country feeling the brute force of the virus which has affected almost every aspect of our lives.
The Government’s COVID-19 strategy has highlighted the importance of “using more telemedicine and remote monitoring to give patients hospital-level care from the comfort and safety of their own homes.”
As a result, the NHS and other health and social care providers are under increasing pressure to utilise technology to empower people to receive great care closer to home and reduce pressure on healthcare institutions.
Our vision is to show how ubiquitous connectivity could improve experiences and services for those receiving care inside a healthcare environment or at their own homes, with a focus on managing long term conditions and improving the efficiency of emergency response.
Technology & Use Cases
Connectivity is key to making improvements to efficiencies within the health and wellbeing sector. Using a mixture of traditional terrestrial technologies including 4G, 5G and fibre broadband mixed with non-terrestrial satellite technologies will mean that everybody can access the same level of service no matter where they are in the UK or across the world.
Developing use cases and demonstrating the effectiveness of enhanced connectivity to stakeholders will be key to ensuring changes can be made and value can be realised.
Remote Consultations Schools & Nurseries
COVID-19 has highlighted the risks that schools and nurseries pose in accelerating the spread of a virus or other disease, becoming the epicentre of many community outbreaks throughout 2020.
We are currently working on a set of trials looking at how to provide enhanced connectivity in schools and nurseries, enabling school nurses to have consultation sessions with a GP to support them when making diagnosis and recommendations.
In the current situation, ruling out COVID-19 could be the difference between a bubble being sent home or even an entire school having to close down.
We are working in partnership with health start-up Tekihealth and connectivity experts Excelerate to allow school nurses to carry out ear, nose and throat examinations amongst other diagnsotics, with the examinations transmitted to the GP as if they were in the room.
Empowering nurses within schools and nurseries with this technology could help reduce pressure on local practices and enable them to give more attention to the most vulnerable in our societies.
Home Delivery of Cancer Screening Technology
Currently, cancer screening tests are carried out in healthcare settings, meaning that patients must travel to the hospital or GP practice, have the test carried out and then return home to await the results.
We are working towards enabling patients to carry out cancer screening themselves, with kits sent to their homes. This would reduce the risk of travelling for potentially vulnerable patients, ease pressure on healthcare facilities while increasing capacity for screening, enable earlier detection through shorter waiting lists and empower people to receive care in their own homes.
This practice has been carried out in other countries such as the USA for more than a decade and is an established method of cancer screening there. The introduction of 5G would ensure this process was effective, allowing patients and healthcare practitioners to upload and receive data faster.
Connectivity in Ambulances
The current emergency and urgent care system suffers from a reliance on poor connectivity and ageing technology. In rural areas, ambulance teams may need to prepare several pieces of equipment to switch providers and ensure an uninterrupted connection throughout the journey.
In situations such as strokes where a fast response is potentially life-saving, speeding up response times by even a few seconds can make a significant difference.
We are proud to be developing a Health Living Lab at Westcott, a demonstration space for the creation of new services and capabilities for ambulances, paramedics and the care pathways they support.
A range of technologies is being utilised within the Living Lab including satellite communications, terrestrial communications, and local connectivity.
In practice, this could enable faster response times through route planning and better connectivity. Remote diagnosis would also be feasible in rural areas where response times are slower and live video feeds could be shared with the family of the patient or medical professionals to enable them to prepare for the arrival of the patient.
Benefits of Ubiquitous Connectivity
Ubiquitous connectivity holds many benefits for both patients and healthcare providers.
For patients, this allows them to access great care closer to home; enjoying the same levels of care regardless of their location or where they are receiving care.
People will also feel empowered when given the technology to take responsibility for their own health, cutting down the number of hospital trips and GP visits they make take which reduces waiting times for other patients.
For providers, a more efficient system to reduce the number of visits a patient might make will mean there is less chance they get overwhelmed, allowing them to focus more on patients that need immediate help and support.
As well as several methods of funding being available for healthcare providers undergoing digital transformations, efficiencies made within the organisation as a result may also help bring down operational costs which in turn improves the service for its users.
Several challenges stand in the way of achieving these transformations within the healthcare industry and we are offering our Health Living Lab, both the physical assets as well as the methodology, to partners and organisations to collaborate with us and co-design solutions that work for the system and its users.
- Connectivity – Not all areas have access to good connectivity, which could create healthcare inequality and leave patients in areas with poor coverage receiving a lower level of care. This is something we are working towards combatting with hybrid satellite networks.
- Collaboration – The UK healthcare system is a complicated ecosystem which is made up of many different stakeholders. For this reason, collaboration can be difficult and it is hard to get a clear picture of the sector overall to develop technology that is accessible and scalable to all. Collaboration between technology designers is also required to develop new services and capabilities, something we are supporting with the Living Lab concept.
- Training – Without the right training and education, healthcare providers could struggle to make the most of a solution or resist it entirely. To ensure that healthcare providers have confidence in new technology, clinicians need to be shown how to use it to its full capability to achieve maximum value.
- Digital Skills – Whilst COVID-19 has advanced the practice of virtual healthcare, it has also highlighted that many professionals and patients will need stronger digital skills to properly utilise services being developed.
- Change – As with any established institution, there is some resistance to change particularly when it comes to implementing technology without understanding the impacts entirely. There is also some concern amongst healthcare professionals about how quickly they could adapt to digitally centric methods of working.
Involvement in ubiquitous connectivity for the health and wellbeing sector is a chance for organisations to collaborate in solving real human issues, pushing the boundaries of what’s possible to create real change for individuals receiving care in our communities.
If your organisation wants to get involved or find out more about the projects we are currently working on, get in touch with us on 01235 428 199 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.