By Wesley Fogel, Co-founder & CEO, On The Mend
Originally published as a guest article on The Future of Healthcare newsletter.
If you’re feeling brave, try searching online for ‘NHS’ and see what comes up. Please go on; I’ll wait. Welcome back. You might now be forgiven for thinking the end is nigh. However, I might have the perfect antidote for such apocalyptic tendencies, and it’s sitting right under your nose, the same device on which you were probably consuming the latest dire piece of news.
It may be hard to imagine how digital health technologies (DHTs) might help avert the crises the NHS and other healthcare systems seem to inevitably lurch towards with each passing year. However, we are all still old enough to remember the transformational impact that DHTs had amid the chaos of the global pandemic.
And yet, the extent to which this impact has been both lasting and positive remains unclear as the same problems that existed before the pandemic rear their ugly head once more: non-compliant patients, ageing populations, staff burnout, unequal access to, and outcomes from, care, the list goes on, sadly with no known ‘cure’ in sight.
While a wholesale shift to virtual care might have seemed like the magic bullet during the pandemic, within the context of general ‘everyday’ chaos across healthcare systems like the NHS, far smaller changes will have a more profound and wide-ranging impact, not just at the individual level but also across the entire healthcare system, and even the environment.
Let’s consider a patient recovering from knee surgery being prescribed an exercise plan.
Traditionally, this process would require frequent visits to healthcare facilities or appointments with therapists, resulting in considerable time, effort, and resources (paper, people, parking) expended. However, with the introduction of a user-friendly mobile application that simply lets the patient be recorded and guided by their healthcare professional through their exercise routines, a transformation occurs. This transformative power lies in the ability to offer personalised guidance and real-time feedback, ensuring that patients perform exercises correctly and safely, thereby enhancing the effectiveness of their rehabilitation.
One of the transformative and lasting benefits of integrating DHTs with such user-friendly features into healthcare systems is the freeing up of valuable resources. With patients equipped with the necessary tools to engage in their exercises independently, healthcare professionals can focus their attention and expertise on more critical and complex cases. The resources that would have been allocated to routine check-ups and guidance can now be redirected towards addressing acute cases, reducing waiting times, and enhancing the overall efficiency of healthcare services.
This shift not only optimises the allocation of resources but also elevates the standard of care provided to patients across the board. Moreover, the impact extends to the patients themselves, fostering a sense of empowerment and autonomy. By actively participating in their rehabilitation through a more engaging mobile application, patients experience greater control over their rehab journey.
The personalised nature of an exercise plan tailored to their specific needs will foster a deeper understanding of their condition and a more proactive approach to their well-being. This newfound independence accelerates the recovery process and creates a sense of confidence and self-reliance, ultimately leading to improved, more consistently achieved patient outcomes and greater satisfaction.
This ripple effect can reach far beyond individual patients and the four walls of healthcare facilities, starting to positively impact the broader environment. By significantly reducing the need for frequent travel to and from healthcare facilities, DHTs will substantially decrease carbon emissions and environmental pollution.
The cumulative impact of fewer vehicles on the roads translates into a tangible reduction in the carbon footprint, aligning with the global efforts to combat climate change and create a more sustainable future. Consequently, the integration of DHTs into the healthcare system promotes individual well-being and aligns with the growing importance of environmentally conscious practices in all sectors of society.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that the successful implementation of DHTs relies on a multidimensional approach that prioritises user-friendliness, accessibility, and compatibility with various devices. A seamless and intuitive interface, coupled with clearly communicated instructions and responsible incentives, is essential to ensure patients can easily navigate the application and adhere to their prescribed rehabilitation plans without feeling overwhelmed, confused, or demotivated.
Additionally, remote monitoring, targeted support from healthcare professionals, and robust data security measures are imperative to maintain patient privacy and confidentiality, fostering trust and reliability in using these technological tools.
On The Mend is among the early-stage digital health start-ups helping to understand the lasting and transformative impact that small changes to the treatment pathway will have on patients, healthcare systems and the wider environment. We have built a personalised companion, not just a digital platform. It motivates and pays patients for doing exercises, tracks their progress, and provides clinicians with valuable data to review and optimise the rehabilitation process. It's a symbiotic digital ecosystem in which every activity performed, every step taken, and every data point gathered adds to creating a personalised rehabilitation path for the patient. Furthermore, our goal of putting this in the hands of everyone undergoing physical rehabilitation means we will collect an immensely valuable data set that, in the right hands, creates huge value-creation opportunities.
We are currently partnering with NHS trusts and US healthcare organisations to pilot and test our DHT with patients of all ages and conditions undergoing physical rehabilitation. Only by working in partnership with early-adopting patients and forward-thinking healthcare providers will digital health innovators discover how healthcare systems can be sustainably transformed to take on the challenges of a post-COVID world.
So, the next time you read a disquieting piece of news about the state of the NHS or any healthcare system, remember that the next touch of your screen holds the potential to rewrite the narrative, transforming not just the prognosis but the essence of what healthcare will mean in future.
If you want to join us on this journey as a user, clinician or investor, you can reach me at email@example.com.