The pursuit of better healthcare technology
30 October 2017
For more than a decade, Octopus Healthcare has invested in healthcare infrastructure through supporting businesses, partnerships and developments. We have made investments of more than £1 billion in all aspects of the patient experience, from GP surgeries to retirement villages.
We work to devise new ways of joining up the physical environment, for example co-locating primary care on the same site as a hospital, care home and other services. Our aim is always to create health destinations combining technological innovation and clinical knowledge, where people live rather than just stay.
Importance of technology
Our focus on customers means we support not only the premises in which we invest, but positive developments for health overall. This includes being at the forefront of healthcare technology trends that have the potential to transform the sector, with benefits for patients and clinicians alike.
We know that technology is integral to the spaces we focus on, from planning and design to execution and delivery. Alongside improving care, technology can aid security, accessibility, connectivity, communication and efficiency, helping to promote health and wellbeing.
Technology can enhance the lives of those who populate new buildings and complexes. Octopus invests in the future. Our starting point is the physical environment, built around the care that patients will need tomorrow. Health tech is key.
Technology is ubiquitous within health. Healthcare trackers, as apps or wearable devices, monitor aspects from fitness to fertility. Artificial intelligence facilitates research, drug development and data management. Virtual and augmented reality helps in training clinicians and preparing patients for surgery through 2D and 3D visualisations.
Within health communities like retirement villages, fusing technology with design means that ambient and voice recognition technology can be built-in, with tailored connectivity for going online becoming standard. Advances in robotics mean that in future robots could perform care tasks.
So technology is already being used in specific and specialised ways. Yet there is a contrast between its presence in niche applications and its absence from the everyday management of health by individuals and communities.
Health and the healthcare system are difficult for people to manage within busy lifestyles and tight budgets. Individuals generally attend to their health on an ad hoc basis, book appointments over the phone, and usually have face-to-face appointments.
Similarly, stretched and underfunded organisations often use outmoded or antiquated systems. Despite advancements in health tech, and initiatives to apply these, processes remain fragmented.
The need for transformative applications
People now manage many elements of their lives, from their finances to free time, through their phones and other devices. It’s clear that they need a similar level of convenience for managing their health.
Health-centred communities also require solutions to ensure smooth running of operations. If the technology exists to manage central heating from a phone, an expanded equivalent could cover health management networks within these communities.
The need for technological innovation is underlined by socio-economic factors. Increased life expectancy has resulted in an aging population. The UK population is at its largest ever with nearly 20% aged 65 and over, and the old age dependency ratio increasing.
This is set against continued health cuts and an overburdened healthcare system. Hospital waiting lists have more than doubled, with more than 500,000 people currently waiting for operations.
There is an urgent need for applications to help manage health effectively. It can be argued that the sector is due a full-scale technology overhaul, with the aim to create a patient-controlled pathway for each life stage.
Benefits of technology for health
Any app that can sync individual needs with healthcare requirements could be a powerful tool. The right technology could enable people to take greater control of their health earlier on, centralising information, delivering education, and allowing for a holistic, long-term view.
Placing health in people’s hands could lead to a democratisation in healthcare, with people empowered by the ability to self-serve, an improvement on dismay at divisions between public and private healthcare.
Greater autonomy could also constitute a preventative approach, raising awareness; decreasing fears around illness and aging; and transforming doctor-patient relationships. This would introduce greater efficiencies and reduce strain on the sector.
Commitment to healthcare technology
Octopus Ventures has continually invested in new healthcare businesses, including myTomorrows and antidote, platforms for finding clinical drugs and trials; Medisafe, which is helping millions of people worldwide to take their medications as prescribed; and Big Health, offering online mental health services.
Our teams are highly receptive to new ideas and approaches, driving change and improvement as we invest. Our place within the Octopus Group means we can often provide routes to funding. With technology being so important to health, we welcome innovation in this area and look forward to continued dialogue with health tech entrepreneurs.