From FitBits you use to track your daily activity and exercise, to Jawbones used to monitor your sleeping patterns, the health and fitness industry is littered with wearable technology or “wearables” that are supposed to enhance our health, improve our lifestyle and ultimately allow us to all live longer.
Health tech is around us and deeply embedded in our everyday lives whether we realize it or not. There’s no price to good for health and as such, a huge amount of money has been invested (and generated) in this area.
So what exactly is health tech? As defined by the World Health Organization, health tech is the “application of organized knowledge and skills in the form of devices, medicines, vaccines, procedures and systems developed to solve a health problem and improve quality of lives.” Healthcare has traditionally been the industry requiring the most advanced technology at its core particularly in diagnosis, monitoring and treatment of medical conditions. Recently, during the StartmeupHK 2017 festival, I had the opportunity to speak with Lee Dentith of Now Healthcare Group about the future of health tech and the next game-changing technologies.
Solving a personal problem by building a company
Do you ever wonder why it takes so long to see a general practitioner as you sit in a waiting room full of sick people, coughing children and crying babies? You already know what the end result will be: a five-minute (or less) consultation after which you’ll be required to line up again just to pick up your prescription. Why is it that in one of most sophisticated and well-funded industries such as healthcare, there still exists these simple pain points that so negatively affect our livelihood?
Those were the sentiments Dentith experienced during a frustrating four-hour wait his sick child had to endure before they could consult with a GP a few years ago. Dentith knew exactly what his child needed (simple prescription medication) but the long queues and waiting to get there was intolerable.
“When I started thinking about what it is I needed, and I needed to speak with a GP because that GP was the conduit to me being treated with a prescription and me getting on the road to recovery, it was a case of ‘what was the boundary to see the GP?’ Did I physically need to leave my location? Did I physically need to travel? And I started thinking about technology,” recalls Dentith.
Dentith envisioned a dream scenario that would cut out all the waiting time to see a doctor and pharmacist. He realized that his pain point was not unique but rather standard industry practice. Realizing the value that our on-the-go society places on convenience and time, Dentith founded Now Healthcare Group. It provides encrypted technology (via a mobile app) that allows patients to directly and confidentially consult with a vetted physician. That doctor prescribes their medication and the app then helps to source a pharmacy and sync up with a courier for delivery. Healthcare Group’s fastest consultation to date (from inquiry to delivery) is a blistering 27 minutes, they say.
Self diagnosis and artificial intelligence
What Dentith is really excited about is the future of self-diagnosis and the use of AI and machine learning to further streamline and automate the self-prescription process. Dentith plans to develop his technology so a patient can directly input or self diagnose problems, which are then forwarded directly to a GP (or clinical nurse) to prescribe medication, or to a fully automated AI machine able to prescribe under the supervision of the company’s chief medical officer.
The final part of this system is what Dentith calls “medicine adherence,” which is essentially using technology and machine learning (via chat bots and auto responders) to ensure you’ve taken your daily medication and finish your prescribed course. Suffice to say Dentith is extremely excited about the future of health tech.
“We’re gonna move away from a wearable technology into a non-evasive … There’s an amazing technology in the UK that’s just been trialled which will effectively, through radio frequencies, read pulses as people are sitting there from cameras,” he says. “So when you think about the connected home in the next three to five years, we will be able to effectively pre-diagnose any ailments that you may not even know that you’ve got by giving you a friendly text saying, ‘We’ve detected something. We’d like to have a chat with you. When is convenient?’ And that to me is what our real goal is.”
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