New research from tech consulting and engineering firm Zühlke reveals that there is huge unmet demand for prescription apps from the NHS across the whole UK population – particularly for prevention of high-volume illnesses where the NHS is struggling to cope with demand, such as depression, anxiety, obesity & diabetes, and cancer.
LONDON, UK – April 6th 2020: A person using the NHS healthcare smartphone app
Its research, published today, shows that over 60% of the population are interested in having apps prescribed by the NHS (over 70% for those under 39, and 65% for those in their forties). There is particularly high demand for ones to treat or prevent depression, pain management, obesity, diabetes, and cancer.
In fact, people are already taking the matter into their own hands because of problems accessing GPs, with 55% of adults self-diagnosing their symptoms online in past six months, partly through challenges of getting appointments over the past six months.
Dr James Graveston, Zühlke’s health & medtech lead consultant and a former hospital doctor, said: “In recent years, much of the population has started using fitness, diet, and wellness apps to improve their health and emotional wellbeing. They are raring to go with similar and more advance medical grade apps from the NHS as part of their treatment.
“On the one hand, our research findings are good news for helping the NHS’s Herculean task of getting waiting lists down. Apps and other digital medical services are low cost per-patient to deploy, provide consistent standards, and can bring huge advances in early diagnosis and preventative treatment, especially through integrated AI spotting early signs of serious problems. They are also particularly suitable for treating illnesses that are overwhelming the NHS’s capacity – such as mental health, diabetes, and obesity.
“The not-so-good news is the NHS is way behind in deploying such technologies, and the prospects of it speeding up without strong government intervention are not good. For instance, you can walk into almost any gym and get detailed information about your fitness activity and even body composition straight to your mobile phone. But go into a modern hospital or GP surgery and it’s a very different story, with little smart technology being used to support your treatment nor even give you basic medical information. It’s a situation that won’t change anytime soon.
“This poor state is a huge shame as for decades policymakers and medics have been keen to increase preventative treatment to stop illnesses at their early stages – which is clearly better for the patient and also cheaper for the health service. But it has not happened. Prescription medical apps, with properly joined-up digital plumbing behind them, would allow early intervention preventing high-risk individuals getting ill in the first place.”
Dr Graveston added: “As our research shows, much of the population is raring to go and wants medical apps through the NHS. It will cut waiting times and given them more information, but better still, it will improve treatment – from basic medication reminders to avoiding GPs and hospitals altogether, whether through weight management apps or sophisticated ones using your phone and AI to spot early-stage skin cancer.
“But the highly desirable and overdue medical app revolution that the UK needs to cut queues, improve treatment outcomes, drive preventative medicine and empower patients has to be kick-started by the NHS – something it has so far been unable to do, and it is hard to see it happening with its current decentralized structure of procurement and deployment until this becomes an urgent priority at the highest levels of government.”
Zühlke research findings include:
Dr Graveston adds: “The economic and medical case for a dramatic increase in the prescription of medical apps is incontrovertible, and our research shows that the demand is there from patients too. The NHS is creaking under the triple burdens of the huge and growing cost of staffing it, the inability to find sufficient numbers of staff, and the constantly rising demand for treatments.
“By contrast apps, and other digital services, allow patients to get fast and consistent treatment, with far less cost per head. They also give patients more power over their own treatment. This is without factoring in the additional huge benefits from AI-generated insights from data analysis, allowing a whole new wave of early diagnosis and even prevention for many illnesses.”