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Now doctors wake up to digital health

For my blog this week I want to continue on the theme I started last week, inspired by a fresh optimism for my prediction that 2014 will be the year that mHealth and digital health would start to be led by professionals.   digital health mhealth

Why so optimistic?

The reason for my enthusiasm is that I’m seeing more and more clinicians who are prepared to stick their neck out and not only say that digital health will be relevant, but actually lead by their actions – ‘walking the walk’ as they say.

You’re probably already aware of celebrated figures in the US like Dr Eric Topol and Dr Leslie Saxon who have received widespread coverage for their pioneering work on digital health and mobile monitoring.  This week I was at the Manchester Connected Health Ecosystem and was privileged to hear a talk by Dr Shahid Ali, who runs a general practice in Bradford, England.  In the last few years he has transformed that practice:

  • agreeing care plans with long-term condition patients, underpinned by web technology
  • offering online access to patient records and appointment
  • utilising telemedicine consultations to increase outreach, particularly with care homes

This is a level of digital patient support unheard of in the English NHS!  Dr Ali has just been appointed Professor of Digital Health at Salford University and I’m sure he will be a role model for future generations in this role.

 What else?

  1. At the same event Brian O’Connor of the ECHAlliance updated us on the work of the mHealth Ecosystem in Oulu, Finland, where 48,000 patients are now using a digital self-care platform that they wish to extend nationally.
  2. I also heard at a recent Health 2.0 Meetup from Dr Bibhas Roy, a consultant orthopaedic surgeon in Manchester who is pioneering the use of gamification technology to support re-habilitation of his patients, loaning patients a Microsoft Xbox to gather feedback on their exercises.
  3. In Scotland we have the pioneering leadership of Professor George Crooks, who is Medical Director of NHS24 and amongst many innovations had created a best practice database for telehealth projects in the region.
  4. In my own work I’ve recently formed a partnership with a team of doctors called AbedGraham who are bringing clinical rigour to the world of digital health, committing themselves full-time to advisory work in this space.  

And these are just a few examples, there are many more.

So is this evidence of a real trend?

I know that some cynics may point out that I am reporting my subjective observations here rather than presenting sweeping statistical evidence. That’s true, but when I see the serious approach of the professionals here I think there’s an inescapable conclusion.  

I’ll be returning to write more about the work of Professor Ali in a later blog.  In the meantime, do let me know your thoughts or contact me.

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