Smart solutions

The news that the NHS is rolling out a smart watch to help with the monitoring and treatment of Parkinson’s patients is just one of a long line of health innovations which are making the most of smart technology. Worn around the clock for six days, the watch contains sensors which enable clinicians to assess the progress of the disease in patients. This in turn will help to identify whether current medication may need updating or whether additional therapies such as physiotherapy may be of benefit.

Developed by the University of Plymouth in conjunction with the local hospital trust, the monitor can also digitally remind patients to take their medications. Lead clinician, Dr Camille Carroll, an associate professor in Neurology at the University of Plymouth and an Honorary Consultant Neurologist at University Hospitals Plymouth NHS Trust commented that the device: “helps to provide reassurance for patients and also means that NHS staff can provide a comprehensive six-monthly review, while also allowing hard-working staff to free up clinical capacity for those who need face-to-face appointments.”

 This project demonstrates the way in which the development of technological solutions has the power to transform health services. Some of these solutions are simple but can have a marked impact on patient care and outcomes. Developments such as the sending of patient reminders via SMS may seem obvious now but they help to optimise patient attendance. Similarly, digitising patient records may not seem as remarkable as it once did but the ability to retrieve and share information electronically can not only save time but could also improve outcomes; particularly in patients with multi-care needs.

Another area which is proving beneficial to patient outcomes is the harnessing of video-conferencing and instant communications in order to share knowledge. The BMJ recently reported on the way in which video-conferencing is not only helping surgeons in the UK, Europe and elsewhere to train and support colleagues in Ukraine in the treatment of battlefield injuries, it is also being used in other fields, such as in Kenya to improve caesarean section outcomes.

 There are also a number of new projects in the pipeline, all of which have the power to transform monitoring and treatment of health issues. Announced in March 2022, the latest tranche of digital health partnership award winners include the use of a secure video platform to support young people with epilepsy, and the use of digital health solutions to transform outpatient care for those with chronic kidney disease. Other award winners deploy remote monitoring programmes in areas as varied as paediatric cardiac care, asthma care, and wound management. All these aim to reduce the need for multiple appointments whilst improving the level of care. Along the way this helps to free up clinical time, thereby increasing the number of people who can be treated at any time.

The number and variety of smart solutions will only grow as technology improves and as health services learn to harness the power of existing technology. Some solutions may be complex, some simple, but the outcome is improved patient care within in a health service which makes the most of available resources.