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Digital health management’s rapid rise

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Digital health management is the biggest application of technology in preventative healthcare, enabling patient empowerment, accessibility, and improved care, according to one of the UK’s new NHS clinical entrepreneurs.

Dr Haroon Ahmad, academic foundation doctor in leadership at the Royal Bolton Hospital argues that technology is changing the way the world works in healthcare as in other activities and that this digital transformation is likely to accelerate.

Dr Ahmad, who is also the co-founder and chief executive of EczemaDoc, a digital health app for patients with eczema, cites a recent Accenture survey that finds that young and upcoming generations have the lowest tolerance when it comes to unsatisfactory healthcare, while also being the group most willing to try non-traditional services.

He says: “Younger generations, tend to naturally adopt new technologies, are constantly looking for the latest thing that will enhance their lives, save them money or give them back more time.’’

Dr Ahmad believes this trend is likely to continue, with a rapid rise in the number of digital health start-ups over the past five years.He points to his own company, EczemaDoc, which he founded with fellow with some fellow patient doctors.

He says: “We’ve recognised that eczema patients are often left to navigate this long-term condition themselves, and traditional care does little to empower patients to manage their eczema. Surprisingly, there has been little innovation within this space and that’s despite over 15 million sufferers across the UK.

“The premise is simple, yet powerful– patients know their skin best, so we are creating a personalised digital solution that allows patients to track, understand and ultimately manage their eczema.’’

The app combines a UI (user interface design) and UX (user experience design), clinical experience and machine learning to deliver bespoke care.

“Ultimately, our mission is to create a paradigm shift in the way skin conditions are treated by developing the next generation dermatology clinic,’’ he adds.

Dr Ahmad also cites a company called Gendius, which has launched the Intellin platform for the better management of diabetes.

It aims to provide better outcomes by allowing two-way communication with the patient and the healthcare professional via a secure dashboard.

Winners of the Best mHealth Application award from the Health Tech Digital Awards 2020, the company has partnered with AstraZeneca and NHS Digital.

More than 140,000 diabetes sufferers in 170 countries have used the platform, which takes clinical history and integrations with services such as Fitbit to predict risk.

The platform is designed for remote diabetes monitoring for improved self-management from patients along with oversight and data for healthcare professionals.

Dr Ahmad adds: “While diabetes apps have traditionally been rear-view mirrors – you can see where you’ve been – Intellin goes beyond by acting as a satnav to help patients plot the route ahead towards a better future living with diabetes.’’

He also uses the example of RXLive, a registered, NHS approved online pharmacy and the first app in the UK to offer a subscription service on pharmacy products.

Awarded Best Healthcare Service Provider 2019, RXLive is a free service that delivers bespoke over-the-counter medication to the door.

He says: “What unites these three mobile health solutions is giving patients more control over their care, in a way that suits them – the welcome future of healthcare and one that enhances care, provides accessibility, and empowers both healthcare professionals and patients alike.’’

He quotes the chair of the RCGP Dr Martin Marshall as saying that, where appropriate, remote consultations, will benefit general practice, the wider NHS and patients, long after the Covid pandemic has ended.

Dr Ahmad adds: “To me, this confirms that we’re seeing a long overdue digital healthcare transformation, which has been induced by the COVID crisis. I believe, as do many of my peers, that this new world is here to stay.’’

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