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NHS 70: Technology’s role in health is stronger than ever before

I’ve worked in technology communications for over 10 years now and during that time I’ve seen a plethora of innovations come through. The growth of mobile, cloud computing and big data have been fundamental in sectors like retail and finance which have changed rapidly as a consequence. But health has always been slower to adopt tech. We hear about innovations in medicine, but less about technology changing the front line of health services, particularly in the NHS.

Two years ago I set up the Hotwire Health Tech practice because I was convinced by the difference tech could make on people’s lives. I wanted to help companies tell some of the great stories coming out of this sector. In those two years, I’ve seen incredible changes in the way we view health tech. When you look at how people are now adopting consumer devices like fitness trackers, how digital devices now exist to more easily detect diabetes and other chronic conditions, how consumers and doctors are embracing interaction online, how AI and robotics are changing front line medicine – it really is remarkable to see.

Our wonderful NHS is facing its toughest challenges ever – an ageing population and lack of funding are causing serious pressure on an already stretched system. But I truly believe technology can help to alleviate the pressure. These technologies do exist and there are some fascinating companies such as Babylon which are really changing our thinking, but with our complex system, the challenge is working this tech into the system in time.

Larger organisations such as J&J and Pfizer have recognised this challenge and are already working to solve it. The Pfizer Healthcare Hub: London works alongside start-ups to help them navigate the complex NHS system and to implement the technology or innovation more quickly. Teaming fast-paced startups with networked organisations who’ve been in the industry for a long time, provides an excellent way to help push some of this tech through to make a difference to people’s lives.

From a communications perspective, we also have a duty of care to the health industry. There are some fascinating stories out there that need to be told and there are some trickier issues that need to be framed in the correct way. Data and how health data is shared is one such issue. The NHS has faced a backlash on this before, but sharing data is something that will drive new discoveries and solutions in health. Communicated in the right way to educate and inform could help everyone to work together more effectively.

We are constantly bombarded by negative stories about the NHS in the media, and there’s no doubt there are plenty of tough issues to be addressed, but there are also exciting technologies and stories that we should all be shouting about to encourage the spread of innovation in the sector.