The NHS must adopt the operating models of the digital economy—not just its productsby William Mosseri-Marlio / May 26, 2016 / Leave a comment
The $13.1 billion mobile health market is growing at breakneck speed. The number of UK health app users doubled in the last two years; for wearable health technology, usage tripled.
This growth is easy to explain. Asthmatics can now use monitoring apps to gain a better understanding of what triggers their symptoms. Diabetics no longer need to prick their finger to measure their glucose levels—non-invasive wearables are now on the market.
As a paper published by Reform today notes, this presents a significant opportunity for policymakers. Those with low health literacy have poorer health, go to hospital more frequently and are less likely to use preventative services. Apps and wearables could harness the powerful role patients play in their own health, encouraging more effective self-care but also helping patients stay healthy in the first place. A randomised control trial in America, for example, found a diet-and exercise-monitoring device helped consumers lose an additional 3.9 kilograms over a 12 month period. Given the annual cost of obesity to the NHS stands at £5 billion, even marginal improvements in patient behaviour could deliver meaningful savings.
However, while consumers are turning to apps and wearables in increasing numbers, new data from Accenture—the management consultancy service—suggests the utility of these tools is on the decline. In the UK, the number of people who say technology helps them understand their condition has fallen by seven percentage points—a trend replicated in Australia, America and Singapore. This should be of concern to an NHS placing considerable weight on digital self-care to manage demand and reduce costs.