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This week we’re looking at how the healthcare industry can and is adapting to technology to greater improve the service and welfare of patients and providers. Yesterday, we looked generally, at how important technology is in modern healthcare.

One of the most important aspects of healthcare technology is the growth of digital data. Initiatives like the SAIL (Secure Anonymised Information Linkage) Databank are collecting, pooling and anonymising data, ready for research through analytics. Operating in Wales, SAIL has collected over 10 billion person-based data records over a period of 20 years, using it in projects finding links between social deprivation and high mortality rates following a hip fracture, or uncovering relationships between congenital anomaly registries and maternal medication use during pregnancy. Similarly, projects at the Wrightington, Wigan and Leigh NHS Foundation Trust are finding operational uses for their own large datasets, using them to monitor time lags between referral and treatment or ensure staffing levels meet demand during peak periods. When it comes to analysing data, studies have found that augmenting manual analysis can reduce screening times from 11 hours to 31 minutes, whilst algorithms have enabled MRI image scan comparisons that used to take up to two hours to be completed in one thousandth of that time.

Meanwhile, clinicians are finding ways to make use of the wealth of data collected by fitness trackers, smart watches and healthcare apps on smartphones. Studies have found that use of wearable technology has more than tripled in the last four years and that more than 80% of consumers are willing to wear fitness technology. From wearable fitness trackers, to wearable electrocardiogram (ECG) monitors and blood pressure monitors, information is increasingly more easily available to both patients and their doctors. University researchers in Edinburgh have been working on creating tiny electronic sensors that can hear what is going on below bandages, and better understand how a wound is healing, allowing more accurate treatment. A recently announced NHS initiative will see thousands of people at risk of Type 2 diabetes be given digital support – including free fitness trackers – to prevent them from developing the condition. Pilot schemes showed that almost seven in 10 people (68 per cent) referred to digital schemes, took part – compared with around half of those who were offered face-to-face support.

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