On the cusp: technology and healthcare

Could technology make healthcare more predictive and less reactive? CSP professional adviser and gadget guru Stuart Palma investigates.

In his recently-published Five year forward view, Simon Stevens, NHS England’s chief executive, said the health of millions of children, the sustainability of the NHS, and the economic prosperity of Britain, all depend on a ‘radical upgrade in prevention and public health’. To achieve this, he called for a significant upgrade and investment in technology and for it nto be used more widely.  
Technology is transforming the ability to predict, diagnose, treat and prevent disease. It is, however, commonly overlooked, misused or badly implemented and interpreted. 
To ensure new technologies are fit for purpose, and can be easily integrated, they must be well researched and designed, with the involvement of representatives of the people who will use them, including both healthcare professionals and service users. The opportunities in this field are ample, but it is crucial that we are aware, involved and consider the implications for both our practice and our patients.
This article will showcase technology currently on, or making its way on to, the healthcare marketplace. Other products are available, and this article does not endorse any of the products. 
Rather, the aim is to encourage you to think about the different products, and what they mean to you, your patients and your practice. 

Activ8rlives: Eyksos

Winner of this year’s ‘AXA PPP Health tech & you: manage my condition Category’, Eykos is a sputum test and vital signs analyser. It predicts flare-ups in chest infections in those with long-term respiratory conditions with the hope of reducing hospital admissions and improving healthcare. The bacterial test is read by the EyKos unit to predict likely flare-ups. 


Created by Babylon Health, and recent overall winner of this year’s ‘AXA PPP Health Tech & You’ awards, this interactive application has two core concepts: access and personalisation.
For £4.99 a month, Babylon gives people access to a GP via a smartphone or tablet. During consultations, prescriptions can also be sent to local pharmacists. 

AliveCor Module ECG

Using your smartphone or tablet, this device instantly detects changes or abnormalities in heart rhythms. Through two electrodes attached to the back of a smartphone or tablet, the AliveECG app anaylses heart rhythms and diagnoses any abnormalities.  Results can be transmitted to healthcare professionals. 

Elvie: ‘Your most personal trainer’

Recently showcased at the ‘AXA PPP Health Tech & You’ awards, this pelvic floor trainer was designed and developed with help from women’s health physiotherapists.
Comprising a kegel and a smartphone app, Elvie guides corrects and visualises your kegel exercises in ‘real time’. 


Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Quanttus is tackling what has been seen as an intractable problem: continuous blood pressure monitoring. 
Currently undergoing trials, the Quanttus wrist-based device will collect 50 million unique data points and more than 400,000 vital sign measurements per person per day, providing invaluable insights into a person’s health. All this will all be done without the use of a single blood pressure cuff. The company is also developing algorithms that monitor these analytics and provide nudges to change users’ behaviour. Quanttus expects to unveil the product later this year. 

Google: ‘Smart’ lens

Google has developed a smart lens to provide continuous blood glucose level monitoring for people with diabetes. Taking one reading a second, the lens measures the level of glucose in the wearer’s tears, and uploads the data to a smartphone or tablet.Having recently agreed a development deal with pharmaceutical giant Novartis, product launch is creeping ever closer, but no date has been announced currently.

Firstbeat – Bodyguard 2

Firstbeat provides both a wearable device in the ‘Bodyguard’ and an analytics platform for users. Adapting developments from elite sport, Firstbeat created a platform that brings together physiological data and behaviour, which is used to influence health, wellbeing and performance. 
The approach is being used by a number of NHS trusts to help influence staff resilience and wellbeing. This device has the potential to help people with chronic pain by providing ‘real time’ analytics on heart rate variability and sleep patterns. 
Optima-Life is using this technology in the sporting and corporate worlds. It is also working with 10 NHS trusts in north west England and runs multidisciplinary programmes for staff at Imperial College, London. This technology could help physiotherapists who are committed to a biopsychosocial approach. 

FitBit Charge HR

With the tagline ‘Every beat counts’, this is one of the most advanced pieces of wearable technology. It counts the activity data such as steps and distance, and provides continuous heart rate monitoring, sleep monitoring, flights of stairs climbed, and workout analysis. It will also profile your optimum heart rate training zones to make the most of your workout. 

REX: Exoskeleton

This hands-free robotic mobility device for rehabilitation is designed for people with mobility impairments. Rex Bionics is working with physios to develop the practice of Robot-Assisted Physiotherapy (RAP). In a session of RAP, REX lifts patients from a sitting position into a robot-supported standing position, allowing them to take part in a set of supported walking and stretching exercises, designed by specialist physiotherapists.
A memorandum of understanding has recently been agreed with Birmingham NHS Trust to explore the potential use of the REX robot in the critical care setting, building upon REX’s concept of RAP. 

Lumo Lift

The Lumo Lift, by LumoBodyTech, is marketed as the only activity tracker which tracks posture, steps, distance and calories.
The tracker simply clips onto your upper body clothing, and provides real-time feedback to the user about their posture and activity.  It will also provide haptic feedback to the user to alert them to poor posture. 

STARFISH mobile application

A mobile phone based application, using evidence based behaviour change techniques. It aims to increase the physical activity of stroke survivors.
Using the metaphor of a fish tank, virtual groups of four people can receive ‘real time’ feedback on their physical activity and that of the other group members. This approach fosters social support and rewards give motivation. 
A trial of STARFISH has recently been funded by Chest, Heart and Stroke Scotland, following the positive results from a pilot study. Lorna Paul, physiotherapist and reader in rehab at the University of Glasgow, is the project leader.  Email: Lorna.Paul@glasgow.ac.uk

The future

Wearable technology, although seemingly advanced, is still in the early stages of development. It is important that the range of data captured continues to expand, so that users – whether they are professionals, patients or consumers – can gain a deeper knowledge of health and body systems. 
Now is the time to engage. Health tech companies value the expertise of healthcare professionals. Whether you have your own idea, think you could influence something that’s in development, or feel that a particular patient population may benefit from the technology, get in touch with them.
If device data is something the public finds meaningful and can act on, wearables will become common place. Technology has the power to transform a reactive healthcare system to a predictive one. 

Want to find out more?

  • Check out the NHS Institute for Innovation and improvement. 
  • Join the iCSP clinical  information management online discussion group.
  • Keep abreast of new technology news via the media.
Stuart Palma CSP professional adviser

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