Five ways predictive health care could transform the NHS

Significant changes are underway in the NHS as policy leaders seek to ensure it remains fit for purpose in the 21st century.

In a recent speech, Health Secretary Matt Hancock outlined his vision of the opportunities and challenges ahead.

“I believe the 2020s is going to herald a fundamental shift in how we think of health, especially public health: proactive, predictive, personalised prevention – that’s the future of public health,” he said.

Such ‘personalised prevention’ means “we must harness the predictive power of genomics, and the data-crunching power of AI so we can get to people before they have a problem, so we can prevent bad luck or bad choices leading to bad outcomes”.

So how might cutting-edge tech and the data it can harness transform NHS care?

By tailoring health checks to the patient

In this article for Digital Health, Owen Hughes reports that the Department of Health is exploring how analytics and data-driven technologies can deliver personalised health advice to patients. The aim is to see how ‘tailored programmes that take age, genetics and socioeconomic factors into account can more effectively prevent disease’.

By creating new Digital Health leaders

This four-year £127m initiative will fund 23 PhD programmes, and promote positive research environments while actively addressing issues like student mental health and good research practice. It is a “drive towards creating a new research culture and training the health data scientists of the future”.

By mapping our DNA

Genomic technology could have the potential to lead to quicker diagnosis and tailored treatment says health minister Baroness Nicola Blackwood. A project to sequence 500,000 whole genomes from UK Biobank will create ‘a vast repository of data for researchers and scientists to analyse, interpret and discover’. And that comes after a project last year demonstrated the benefit of genomics for healthcare, with half of cancer patients seeing a change to their treatment and up to 60% of rare disease patients receiving a diagnosis for the first time.

By harnessing the power of Google

In his article for HSJ, Google Health’s Michael Macdonnell revealed how DeepMind Health is joining his organisation to power the artificial intelligence revolution – and the potential benefits of the partnership for the NHS. ‘By drawing on Google’s global expertise and resources, we can more quickly translate groundbreaking research into tools and technologies that can save lives,’ he wrote.

By developing wearable tech

From Sleepio, a digital sleep improvement programme, to Intellin, which aims to provide support for people with diabetes, there are a host of innovative health care apps under development. In combination with wearable tech, they can help with early diagnosis and intervention, as well as collect anonymous patient data which could inform future NHS policy.

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