Digital healthcare: A listening exercise
Perhaps not too scarred from his last listening excursive, health secretary Andrew Lansley launched a crowd-sourcing initiative this week, calling on the general public and healthcare professionals to submit ideas for a series of health apps which could help improve NHS healthcare.
While Lansley has been lambasted for being seriously out of touch over his botched NHS reform plans of late, the move does touch on a wider trend in using digital technology to aid healthcare.
Increasingly, doctors are using sophisticated smartphone apps in clinical practise. MedCalc, Traumapedia, the BMJ Doctors health kit and the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine are some examples of these more widely used iPhone apps. But the list is extensive and growing.
But beyond hospital wards there are also an increasing number of apps, helping individuals take care of their own health. The NHS already has a number of apps including local services search app and breast check app.
This is an area Google is looking to move into, as it discussed at its recent Think Mobile event in London. It already offers a diabetes and blood pressure Android apps
Health is on Facebook’s agenda too. I saw Sheryl Sandberg recently talk up how she believes that social networking has the power to have “a profound impact” on global health at her POLIS Lecture in London.
She said that social networking could prove important in predicating the spread of contagious diseases.
Quoting some research from Harvard, Sandberg said that studying patterns of friends can help predict flu outbreaks two weeks before they happen. So in effect, Facebook with its social graph data can aid this process.
She pointed out that Google, which also has been vocal on the subject in the past, can only predict flu outbreak’s in real time, based on search trend data.
Sandberg also said the platform is a great way to raise awareness about health and gave several examples of this, including one of an anonymous man becoming a kidney donor after a plea made on Facebook.
So with digital media companies looking to innovate in healthcare and the list of apps ever increasing, lets hope Lansley’s latest ‘listening exercise’ is more successful than his last one.