THE BLOG

Personal Health Technology: Looking To The Future

31/10/2016 14:47

In the last two years, health technology policies have focused on the drive for greater participation and transparency through digital channels, driving the move to online service delivery, such as the Patient Online programme to promote the shift of GP services online; and numerous initiatives making health service performance information more readily available to inform peoples' choices and support greater accountability.

The current policy focus has shifted back towards digital and information technology as the enabler of more efficient services that are increasingly personalised. The NHS CEO Simon Stevens and the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt have both spoken consistently on this topic, including recently at the NHS Expo in Manchester, where AXA PPP Health Tech & You launched their third year Award categories.

The AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards are built on the premise that success and progress rely on continuous innovation and this is reflected in the development of the award ethos and the categories. The importance of developing personal health tech in a human context and the central role that good design has on usability and take up is acknowledged by the AXA PPP Health Tech & You partnership with the Design Museum. Last year's winners of the Innovator Award, Helen Hamlyn Centre for Design, provide an exemplar of people-centred design, using technology to improve lives.

In Year 1 of the Awards, the Forum and Showcase took a snapshot of recent health tech developments and examined what these changes could mean for designers, healthcare professionals and users of new technologies. In Year 2 the 2016 Awards celebrated the best in personal health technology innovation across seven categories from individuals, designers, developers, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals from the UK and around the world. Recognising that this is a rapidly developing environment the aims and objectives for Year 3 the focus is again on sharing, promoting and supporting the best in consumer digital health innovation and development.

The Awards also recognise that to succeed in pushing the boundaries of health tech innovation forward, you need tenacity and staying power as well as vision. Every award winner will have overcome many challenges to achieve success. Indeed they have pushed the boundaries and been prepared to fail, trying things out and learning from each attempt, working with users to ensure a usable design. Our award categories not only reward and applaud success, but aim to support those who have that combination of vision and determination to keep at it when the going gets tough.

At our Year 3 launch this year at NHS Expo in Manchester, we were delighted that three of our past winners were able to join us. Winning entry in the Health & Care category was Food Maestro, developed in response to the innovator's own family's challenges with extreme allergies to certain foods. Independent Living Award winners, Walk with Path showcased their Pathfinder walking aid for people with conditions such as Parkinson's disease. We also heard from the designers of Ostom-i, winner of the Breakout Award, a sensor that links via Bluetooth to a user's phone, alerting them in good time when they need to attend to their colostomy bag. Although these achievements are at the forefront of personal health technology, it took years of hard work and development to arrive at the award winning solutions that we celebrated earlier this year.

So, following the launch of year three of the Awards, let's look forward over the next 10 years and beyond and consider the anticipated areas of progress in personal health tech. The indications are that the increasing personalisation of health and wellbeing enabled by the growth in data analytics will be a central theme. This will impact at both at an individual level, with people being able to manipulate and review their own data as part of an holistic personal record, and at a population health data level, with the rise of ever more sophisticated 'big data' analytics, derived from the inexorable shift of our daily lives into the digital arena. Data about our genetic makeup and state of health and wellbeing will be core components in the tailoring of our increasingly personalised digital identity, enabling personalised healthcare designed ever more precisely and effectively for our individual needs and preferences. Our younger generation clearly expect and seem comfortable with this direction of travel, as evidenced by the Health Tech & You 2015 State of the Nation Report.

Alongside these developments is the convergence of the hardware devices; it seems our personal technology devices are becoming interchangeable, their capabilities and functions merging into increasingly well designed and intuitive personal portals, bringing together all the facilities of smartphones, Fitbits, and other life enhancing wearable devices. So the next generation of personal devices will not be single function, whether we wear or carry them, or even have them implanted or woven into the fabric of our clothes, they will be our secure, individually tailored personal portals enabling our digital selves to participate in an ever more sophisticated digital universe.

As these technologies become more widespread and easily accessible to all, this will support and enable people to take greater ownership and control of their own health and wellbeing. The AXA PPP Health Tech & You Awards will continue to support this future vision and build on the success to date in identifying, showcasing and supporting an exciting and inspirational group of developers, designers and businesses that are - or soon will be - helping people become true 'Participatients' in clinical settings, in the workplace and at home.

After two successful years, the third year of the Health Tech & You programme has now been launched and is looking for innovative entrants - for more information about the different categories you can enter, please visit healthtechandyou.com. Follow Health Tech & You on Twitter @healthtechyou #HealthTechAwards

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