A recent report from the Institute of Fiscal Studies addressed the long-term health needs of the UK. For anyone – like me – that is over 45 it makes for sobering reading.
A demographic storm
As the son of a mother and father – both over 80 and both alive and well – the issues of an ageing population are familiar. My company has worked with emporia, which addresses issues of ageing and mobile technology since 2010. One of the most incredible statistics I have heard as part of our work with this company is in 1950 there were 14 people working to each person that was retired. By 2050 this number will be close to two working for one retired.
This figure alone demonstrates that the global health services are likely to need an ever-increasing volume of money simply to stand still. Advances in medical science also keep more people alive. British Heart Foundation statistics from a 2011 report showed that the number of people dying from Coronary Heart Disease has halved since 1961, despite the number of people suffering heart attacks increasing. This is good news, but that comes at a cost.
What is the price of life?
There is no doubt that the country needs a debate on future investment in healthcare. This will need to ask difficult questions about funding and levels of taxation. It will be uncomfortable because at some point it needs to address the issues around the cost of keeping increasingly elderly people alive.
But technology has a role to play here too. My guess is that after the excitement around FinTech, MedTech will be the next area of investment and entrepreneurism. The pace at which technology is impacting healthcare and wellbeing is already swift and will only increase.
The role of technology
We now rely on smart watches to help us get fitter. Apps such as MyFitnessPal are further helping us keep in shape while measuring and monitoring our own wellbeing. Babylon – a video phone doctor’s consulting practice – is used by the NHS to provide doctor’s appointments on the smartphone.
Other MedTech developments include Geko, a product designed by a company we work closely with: Acumen Design Associates. It speeds recovery to patients with all kinds of ailments, including deep vein thrombosis and muscle injury.
These are just the pioneer companies. The MedTech industry can help reduce the cost of hospital care and help us better help ourselves. Yes, there is the need for a debate on healthcare spending, but technology has a critical role to play too.