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Revolutionising diagnostics: The impact of technology on public health in 2023

By Amman Boughan, Chief Financial Officer and acting Chief Technology Officer at Preventx

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Farewell 2023, a year of great progress and potential.

We’ve seen national tech initiatives launch, new breakthroughs in scientific research, and the unstoppable progress of AI.

We’ve also seen Health Secretaries come and go, and the government launch its long-awaited Long Term Workforce Plan.

It’s certainly never boring in the evolving world of healthcare.

2023 has been a difficult year for tech.

Sweeping cuts to capital funding have made it harder to fulfil ambitions for transformation. the looming general election also brings with it uncertainty and short-term thinking.

In spite of these headwinds, significant progress is being made.

At Preventx, we’ve seen the transformative impact of tech-powered diagnostics grow this year, driven by a mission to make healthcare more accessible and effective.

It’s clear that the integration of technology in diagnostics is helping deliver an inclusive and equitable system to even more people.

A great example of this shift has been the launch of NHS England’s at-home testing service for hepatitis C.

Until now hepatitis C testing has been primarily conducted in Drug and Alcohol services, in prisons or in secondary care services.

This approach has been successful, with the NHS racing towards elimination in England.

But the last mile of the race is often the hardest. Latest data shows that the majority of people with undiagnosed hepatitis C have acquired the virus through historic risk and would therefore not be picked up by ‘traditional’ testing routes.

To find these ‘missing cases’ of hepatitis C, a convenient at-home testing option was needed.

Launching in May 2023, we partnered with NHS England to deliver a tech-powered at-home testing portal that would expand access to testing.

Designed with usability and convenience in mind, the service integrates seamlessly with national and local NHS services ensuring continuity and joined up care.

The service has already enabled thousands of individuals across England to take an active role in their health management by testing for hepatitis C if they think they are at risk.

It has NHS England to find people with undiagnosed hepatitis C, supporting them to start treatment. You can access the service here: hepctest.nhs.uk

While tech is just starting to have an impact on hepatitis C, 2023 HIV testing data from the UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) shows what is possible.

The latest data shows that more people than ever use an online service to test for HIV, with just over half of all tests in 2022 conducted online.

This significant trend can be attributed to the trust that people have in online services, trust that is built on excellent tech that is easy to use and fully integrated into sexual health services.

At Preventx, we’ve seen demand for HIV testing continue to grow this year.

To support the growing need for diagnostics need we’re constantly refining our tech.

We’ve developed user experience that is not only intuitive, but also includes best-in-class safeguarding capabilities to identify vulnerable people who may need additional support.

This approach has not only broadened the reach of HIV testing but has also played a crucial role in early detection and management.

These services are an established lifeline for those who might otherwise face barriers in accessing essential health services.

As we look to 2024, our resolution is one of continued development and improvement.

But for this to happen, investment in diagnostics and tech must recover from this year’s cuts.

Advancements in diagnostics are not merely a result of innovation but also of the consistency of these services and the trust the public has in them.

If we continue to cut back, then we put at risk the progress that has been made and the potential that lies ahead.

Technology is not just line item on a budget; it is a transformative investment in the health of our population and the resilience of our healthcare system.

We must keep these services going, not just to maintain our current standards but to reach new heights of public health success.

Let’s make 2024 the year where technology and healthcare integrate more robustly than ever, creating a future where everyone has the opportunity to seek, receive and manage their healthcare in a way that fits around their life and circumstances.

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