Technology has a huge role to play in healthcare.
As well as helping vast organisations like the NHS to move towards being more ‘paperless’, it is a key component in the drive to treat more patients closer to home, and to save money on un-necessary hospital admissions and prescribing charges - which cost the NHS billions every year.
Oh, and did I mentioned it’s also saving lives?
Just ask leading national consultant gynaecologist Jullien Brady who sits on the National Cervical Screening Programme.
He cites pioneering technology for helping to ensure the Cervical Screening Programme remains ‘one of the most respected screening programmes in the world’.
Mr Brady uses a DySIS, a piece of equipment to help detect hard to spot cervical changes and to help guide the best course of treatment for women to prevent them developing full-blown cancer.
This piece of kit is changing the philosophy of the way women are managed, he says, as doctors are able to take a less radical approach to treatment which means they can conserve younger women’s fertility and enable them to go onto have children.
Meanwhile a non-invasive 10-second breath test called a FeNO test is being used by GPs and hospital respiratory consultants to diagnose asthma and help to guide the correct inhaler dose. The technology is helping to prevent asthma attacks in both adults and children and preventing hospital admissions and inaccurate prescribing.
Dr Adel Mansur, respiratory consultant at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, said two thirds of his patients have benefitted from the FeNO test, which has helped to make a diagnosis, or is helping to demonstrate a patient is taking their inhaler medication, a big issue in asthma.
Asthma and the drugs associated with asthma cost the NHS £16 billion a year.
Yet technology like this can take months and years to receive the guidance it needs to be universally approved for use on the NHS, and even once it is approved, funding is sometimes not readily available. Many NHS trusts rely on their charitable funds to secure a piece of the state-of-the-art technology for patients.
So in the meantime it is down to the patients – you and I – to ask your doctor about technology that could help you. There is much to be said for patient power in the modern day – we are more armed with information thanks to Dr Google. But with an ever growing list of commissioning priorities for the GPs who fund NHS services - it may come down to who shouts loudest.
Oh, and one day it could save your life.