Healthcare systems around the world are under unprecedented pressure to tackle an ever-growing patient backlog. The figures for the NHS in England from July this year show 6.84 million people are awaiting care – the highest it has ever been.
It’s not possible to overcome the challenges without accelerating access to healthcare technologies that put people first. For nearly 75 years, Medtronic has made technology that transforms lives. We still do that, but today we go beyond the device.
We believe that healthcare technology must do more than just “fix” people. It needs to build resilience and sustainability into health systems, improving access to care for everyone so they can receive the care they need, when they need it.
Early detection, remote care, and more efficient systems to manage patients’ journeys through their treatment are part of the solution to the current big challenges. Digital technologies are key not only to improve therapies and clinical outcomes, but also to create better patient and physician experiences.
Prioritising those who need treatment
With expanding waiting lists and stretched clinical resources, prioritising those who need urgent care is more important than ever. For so many conditions, such as bowel cancer, early detection and treatment are critical.
At the start of this year over half of those on urgent referral for bowel cancer investigation in the NHS were waiting longer than the targeted 28 days for diagnosis. Innovations are providing clinicians with the means to tackle this challenge. PillCam – a tiny camera the size of a vitamin pill – is currently being evaluated as a way to triage non-urgent patients, potentially helping the system prioritise patients at higher risk.
Colonoscopies are another critical tool in the fight against bowel cancer. Highly skilled physicians review images captured by a camera searching for polyps which may lead to cancer if left untreated. However, some of them can go undetected by the human eye. Now, artificial intelligence built into Medtronic’s GI Genius system can be used to support the physician in detecting those polyps that may be missed.
The system scans every visual frame taken during a colonoscopy and alerts physicians to the presence of polyps — including hard-to-detect precancerous lesions.
With such tools, physicians have the potential to alleviate pressure from a stretched system and prevent anything from being missed.
Remote monitoring of patients
In the UK, nearly 14,000 patients receive an implantable cardiac device every year. Every patient has different needs, but all require regular follow-ups and close monitoring. This doesn’t have to happen in the hospital setting. A patient can be sat in the comfort of their home while the data from their device is uploaded, via their smartphone, to Medtronic’s CareLink network and remotely monitored by their clinical team. Anomalies that require the patient to come in for further investigation or treatment can be identified, and those patients are prioritised for vital face-to-face appointments. It saves time for both the patient and the healthcare professional.
More than convenience, it provides incredible peace of mind. Someone who has suffered a stroke from an unknown cause can be implanted with a Reveal LINQ II – an implantable cardiac monitor, smaller than a triple-A battery, which will listen to their heart rhythm 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Heart rhythm data is regularly uploaded and monitored over the CareLink network by their healthcare team with the aim of identifying if that patient has underlying atrial fibrillation (AF), a condition that puts them at a higher risk of having a second, more devastating stroke. Appropriate treatment and support can then be given to intervene.
Patients with diabetes can also be monitored in much the same way, enabling them to benefit from improved access to their healthcare team through virtual appointments – conversations that are filled with data-driven insights into their personal, unique needs.
Digitalisation to improve hospital efficiency
Delivering care is a complex process that varies by hospital, department, condition, and surgical list. For patients going through the hospital journey, it’s not always easy. On top of their anxiety at feeling unwell, there is the wait for appointments, being passed around a hospital switchboard, feeling ill-prepared for procedures, and having their relief at being discharged combined with the concern of not knowing what comes next.
Experienced healthcare professionals, already managing the pressures of having to do more with the same or less resource, are managing administrative burdens that could take time from their primary goal – to care for people. With long waiting lists for surgery it is essential that every surgical slot is filled, so avoiding unnecessary cancellations or delays to a surgical list is paramount.
Get Ready – a digital, remote patient management system – is an app that is supporting both patients and healthcare professionals to manage the complexity of healthcare processes. Patients receive customised reminders, advice and information in the app during their journey. The app supports healthcare teams to monitor patients on the waiting list and prioritise those who need urgent care, prepare patients for their procedure, manage appropriate follow-up, and keep patients connected and informed throughout their journey. With this tool, healthcare professionals can deliver their services in a streamlined way that is consistent and simple – and patients experience a smoother pathway through the system.
Healthcare and technology are converging, and the boom of innovation we will experience in the next 20 years will be far greater than the past 100 years combined. Ground-breaking technology focused on each unique patient will change lives, but only if there is a shift in mindset by everyone involved. The key is to make changes to how we deliver and receive care so that we can all realise and benefit from digital innovation.
This advertorial will appear in our Healthcare Spotlight print supplement, published on 28 October 2022.