How the NHS’ new robot army could stimulate the British economy post Brexit.
Dr Mahiben Maruthappu, Healthcare UK champion, co-founder of the NHS Innovation Accelerator and leading physician, entrepreneur and technologist shares his views on how AI, robotics and digital health are set to transform the UK economy.
A new era in medical care and treatment is upon us. NHS CEO Simon Stevens recently announced that the health service is to fast-track the introduction of new ‘game-changing’ cancer drugs that target tumour-causing genetic flaws, heralding a step-change advance in personalised care.
Elsewhere new technologies such as AI-led diagnosis are a sign that digital advances are changing the face of healthcare in the UK at an unprecedented rate.
At a time when business leaders and government are looking to potential areas of new growth, digital health offers profound opportunities to radically improve healthcare accessibility.
Met with the challenges of ageing populations with complex long-term conditions and other population pressures – as well as finite financial and workforce resources – healthcare systems are looking for new answers.
That’s why the UK government is prioritising the use of technology, digital and data to enable the NHS and social care systems to improve outcomes.
Healthcare UK – an agency run jointly by the Department of Health & Social Care and the Department for International Trade in partnership with NHS England – has already helped NHS organisations to export more than £100 million in health care expertise and services over the last two years.
Now we have an exceptional opportunity to build on this success as we identify new areas of growth within healthcare for the UK economy, such as making the most of the potential of AI and other emerging technologies including gene therapy.
US tech giants have clearly recognised the potential of offering personalised healthcare direct to consumer in fact, Microsoft, Google, Apple, IBM and Facebook have all made moves into this area in recent months.
At the same time, the UK’s own healthtech ecosystem is showing signs of developing into its own global powerhouse growing by nearly £1 billion in the last four years. This will be further fuelled by advances in AI, robotics and digital healthcare which are only just starting to gather momentum as we approach a new decade.
The UK’s digital health and technology sectors are comprised of world class talent including leading researchers, scientists, engineers, designers and NHS clinicians. Thanks to a seventy-year history, the NHS also has unparalleled market intelligence – something which is of immense value to other countries.
The UK has become an attractive place for digital health start-ups because of the potential to scale nationally via the NHS and the access to a strong investor environment with more tech unicorns (private start-ups worth over $1 billion) in London than in any other EU city.
Thriving sector ripe for export
This multitude of factors make the country, and its thriving digital health technology industry, an ideal breeding ground for products, services and expertise that are attractive to overseas export markets.
For example, in the move towards more personalised care, the 100,000 Genomes Project is a shining example of how the NHS is harnessing technology to change lives. Currently the largest national sequencing project of its kind in the world, the project has sequenced the genomes of around 85,000 people with rare diseases or cancer – and those of their families – to seek diagnoses for their conditions and to improve prevention and care.
Elsewhere in the NHS, surgical robots like the DaVinci robot, are already assisting with a range of operations leading not only better quality of care for patients but also improved delivery and efficiency of care.
Monitoring patients on hospital wards – including after surgery – is also evolving through technology. Exciting solutions, such as Oxehealth, use smart cameras to remotely monitor vital signs 24/7. Predictive analytics can be used to determine when a patient is likely to deteriorate and signal for early intervention.
Digital advances are also changing the face of ‘everyday’ healthcare in the UK. Babylon’s digital GP services are driven by artificial intelligence, using large volumes of data from the medical community to mimic a doctor’s brain. Their system enables people to see an NHS GP digitally at any time of day or night, 365 days a year.
The opportunities for the UK’s health service and its digital healthcare industry to collaborate across global markets are huge and will create true healthcare advancements to deliver care on-demand to our populations.
The NHS is world-renowned, and its strength and depth, combined with the UK’s rapidly expanding digital health technology market mean that the time to offer our expertise on the world-stage has never been better.
Dr Mahiben Maruthappu will be speaking at the HealthCare UK stage at the Digital Healthcare Show, part of the Health Care + event at the Excel Centre, London on 27 June.
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