Entering 2024, digital health technology stands on the brink of a major transformation.
This shift is fuelled by breakthroughs in artificial intelligence, enhanced operational efficiency, seamless data integration, improved patient engagement, and innovative educational technologies.
We spoke with a few leading health tech stakeholders, including an NHS clinician working at the coal face, to gather their perspectives and forecasts, revealing a sector that is gearing up for substantial evolution and growth.
Sarah Bruce, Co-founder and Director of Silver Buck
Health tech leaders face a challenging year ahead, marked by sustained funding pressures and workforce strains amidst a looming general election.
This political climate may initially offer short-term financial opportunities and pots of voting winning money (potentially around Long-Term Conditions and workforce), but a subsequent period of indecision and poor direction will come during and post Purdah, stifling developments.
The central focus on Electronic Patient Record (EPR) implementation will continue to consume significant workforce resources, exacerbating the financial constraints and making it a tougher landscape for startups to pilot innovations.
Organisations will become risk-averse, necessitating suppliers to thoroughly understand their audience, environment, and mechanics, and to demonstrate clear impact and evidence and referencability to mitigate risk concerns.
Solutions addressing capacity issues will be crucial, with a continued rise in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), including clinical applications.
Although AI’s potential is still overhyped its growing application across specialties will start proving its value.
Additionally, developments around the NHS App plus new frameworks in primary care will advance the delivery of a ‘digital front door,’ in a way that will be clearly recognisable to patients.
1. Integration of AI and Technology in Healthcare
Michael Measures, Director of Technology, Answer Digital
As we enter 2024, it’s evident that Artificial Intelligence (AI) is poised for transformative growth next year, significantly fuelled by the £21 million AI Development Fund.
This investment is a clear indicator of the increasing confidence in AI’s potential to revolutionise various sectors.
A key area of focus will be expanding AI’s applications in healthcare beyond the already established field of radiology.
The fund will likely catalyse the development of AI technologies in other modalities such as pathology, ophthalmology, cardiology, and genomics enhancing diagnostics across the board and enabling the personalisation of treatment planning.
The integration of AI in patient care management and predictive analytics will see a substantial uptick.
The upcoming year will undoubtedly witness broader adoption of AI across industries, with healthcare leading the charge in innovation and improved patient outcomes.
This expansion will not only enhance efficiency but also pave the way for more personalised and accurate healthcare solutions.”
Krishna Thakur, Co-Founder, Capri Healthcare
Reflecting on the successes of 2023, the integration of technology into healthcare has been instrumental in enhancing patient care and streamlining processes.
Looking ahead, we think automation, AI and innovation frameworks to support the integrated care agenda will be key priorities, which will help drive a new era of productivity.
There will be an increased emphasis on interoperability standards to ensure seamless data exchange among different healthcare systems, while patient centred care will continue to play a major role with new tools and applications emerging – but bringing with it a heightened focus on cybersecurity.
2. Healthcare Operational Efficiency and Patient Care
Alan Payne, Group Product & Engineering Director, The Access Group
Managing workforce capacity and patient flow will remain as the biggest challenges for 2024.
As a result, we should expect to see a scaling up of initiatives like virtual wards, which have shown to deliver effective, joined-up clinical outcomes and release capacity in overstretched hospitals.
However, if the current siloed approach to delivering health and care continues, there is a risk the much-needed scale-up will fail to meet its aspirations.
We need to see a refined cross domain model that doesn’t just use technology for the remote monitoring element. Instead, technology should be used to address the logistical friction between functions at different stages of the care pathway.
This way, virtual wards become a joined-up service between providers that also simplifies and improves the process from discharge right through to remote care from the hospital and community services.
Some NHS trusts are already considering this model and hopefully it will become more common place in 2024.
However, it could all change after the general election!
Carmelo Insalaco, CEO and Co-Founder, Rapid Health
2023 saw the launch of the GP improvement programme, but unfortunately, judging by comments from ICB leaders, this is yet to have the desired transformational impact with many practices citing a mixture of funding and workforce shortages preventing engagement.
In 2024, those practices that are able to push ahead with transformation plans and focus on implementing modern triage systems will reap the greatest benefit.
We will see more practices adopt automated clinical triage solutions, which have demonstrated their efficacy in managing and predicting demand more effectively and freeing up capacity by significantly reducing call volumes.
The practices that go further and implement a 15-minute appointment model as recommended by the BMA will start to see the benefits that this additional time with patients will bring, enabling more holistic care and reducing the pressure on the wider health and care system in supporting people with long-term chronic conditions.
3. Digital Health and Data Integration
Richard Barrett, Cardiac Information Systems Administrator, Royal Cornwall Hospitals NHStrust
In the NHS, integration is pivotal for the digital health industry’s future.
Acute hospital trusts are transitioning to integrated Electronic Patient Record (EPR) systems, replacing old Patient Administration Systems and varied Clinical Information Systems.
These encompass multiple functionalities yet retain connections with specialised systems like cardiac care through APIs and HL7 messaging.
Hospitals are now also embracing Robotic Process Automation for integrating corporate functions, and utilising advanced RFID patient wristbands for improved patient tracking and bed management, supported by enhanced wireless networks.
Moving forward, I think Integrated Care Systems will continue to bridge primary and secondary care nationally, with initiatives like the Devon and Cornwall Care Record facilitating a unified healthcare record portal, breaking down historic siloes.
This integration trend marks a significant shift in the NHS, aiming to streamline processes from a clinical standpoint, while ultimately improving patient care efficiency.
As an example, CaptureStroke (CS) supports the entire Cornwall stroke care pathway with digitally linked implementations both in the acute trust and the Integrated Community Stroke Service (ICSS), with these ICSS teams being rolled out nationally – and Cornwall being one of the first.
Personally, I have grand designs for CS as a potential candidate for a general stroke register in Cornwall, offering patients accessibility and the new mobile version of the app makes this a real possibility.”
4. Communication and Patient Engagement Technologies
Kenny Bloxham, Managing Director, Healthcare Communications
140 billion messages are sent worldwide every day across a multitude of channels from social media messaging to SMS.
People already expect to be able to communicate with service providers on their channel of choice, and I believe in 2024 we’ll see this trend breakthrough in health; particularly with the emergence of Rich Communication Services (RCS) messaging which will accelerate once it is rolled out across Apple products.
Such technology makes it possible to create an in-app experience through two-way conversational messaging.
This will enable healthcare providers to create automated bespoke patient journeys for everything from appointment management to patient experience measurement, to care advice.
RCS will enable many benefits for healthcare providers including branded messaging and better patient engagement at a fraction of the cost of traditional SMS messaging.
It will be exciting to see which trusts are the first to adopt this emerging technology.
5. Technology and Education in Healthcare
Ad Gandhe, Founder, Amodisc Ltd
John F. Kennedy once described the word ‘crisis’ using two brush strokes in Chinese calligraphy: one representing danger, the other representing opportunity.
With multiple new crises, this perspective is increasingly relevant to global healthcare as it is this that often bears the brunt.
The support and solidarity among medical professionals are more vital than ever.
Travel restrictions have accelerated the shift to remote medical education, essential for knowledge dissemination in inaccessible areas.
This change has spurred a surge in health tech companies to develop technologies such as VR/AR, aiming to bridge health resource gaps.
Looking ahead, AI will become crucial in producing, refining, and distributing medical content in more efficient and innovative ways.
This rapid advancement, however, poses a challenge: maintaining high-quality and reliable content.
It is therefore imperative for the medical community to balance embracing technological progress with ensuring the integrity and accuracy of medical information in this new world.