Recent Developments in Digital Health – RSM conference summary

Editor Charles summarises the one day conference at the Royal Society of Medicine on 27th February

This was the first  conference in 2014 organised by the Royal Society of Medicine’s Telemedicine & eHealth Section.  The day began with one of Dr Kevin Doughty’s excellent presentations on telecare. Kevin is Deputy Director of CUHTec. One key message was that the oldest people in society – those most in need of support to remain in the community – were best communicated with using televisions.  In response to this requirement he particularly picked out the Speakset set-top box as a low cost, easy-to-use add-on to make any television into a videoconferencing unit.

This was followed by an excellent summary by Julie Bretland, Director, OurMobileHealth, on the maturity of the use of mobile apps, in particular the need for good curation. (This subject will be explored in much greater detail in the RSM’s 10th April apps event, where there are still just a few places left.)

Next came interesting presentations by Stephen Davies, European Health Director, Weber Shandwick, and Ben Heubl, Innovation Manager, respectively on genomic advances and healthcare access.

The morning was rounded off by a hugely impressive presentation by Dr Chis Gibson, Head of National School of Healthcare Science, and Professional Lead for Physical Sciences & Scientific Director, NHS South of England, on how big data has already improved healthcare delivery – a great taster for the RSM’s Big Health Data event on 5th June.

My presentation after lunch explored the topic, already familiar to Telehealth & Telecare Aware readers, of how technology is changing the patient:doctor relationship. I ended by posing the question, of how long iDoc, in Dr Robin Cook’s recently published book “Cell”, would remain a fiction.

This was followed by an explanation by Dr Chris Elliott, Director, Leman Micro Devices, of his new smartphone chip, now likely to be in smartphones in late 2015, that can measure systolic & diastolic BP, respiration & pulse rate, blood oxygen concentration, temperature as well as doing a simple ECG. Clearly this is going to have a dramatic impact on that same doctor:patient relationship. A story Chris told somehow summed it all up: an initial application might be to use the extreme accuracy of the thermometer to tell a woman keen to conceive when she was most likely so to do. Why not though have the app automatically contact her partner to come home early…perhaps with an appropriate gift? (Note that a presentation on Samsung’s smartphone & tablet health & wellbeing development plans will be part of the RSM’s evening meeting on 13th March, free to attend for RSM members).

Chris Price, Visiting Professor in Clinical Biochemistry, Oxford University, added further to the growing feeling that the world was changing during the day by giving a very scholarly explanation of how point-of-care testing is transforming the way care is delivered, looking at both emergencies such as heart attacks, and planned interventions such as a parathyroidectomy.

Trevor Wright, Head of Strategic Systems & Technology, NHS England (North), then gave a summary of NHS England’s digital health priorities, recognising the importance of technology in enabling the achievement of improved patient outcomes at lower cost.

The day ended with a truly excellent presentation by Professor Lionel Tarassenko, CBE, Professor of Electrical Engineering, Institute of Biomedical Engineering, University of Oxford, on the challenges of delivering appropriate evidence for the benefits of healthcare technology.

Where presenters gave permission, all presentations were videoed; a selection of those that were identified by attendees as the best will in due course appear on the Telemedicine and eHealth Section’s website.

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