COVID-19 has brought unprecedented challenges and placed governments and citizens around the world under immense pressure to cope with the severe social, economic and health impacts resulting from the crisis.
At techUK, our members have not been immune to these challenges, but their response has been marked by one word: collaboration. More than ever, COVID-19 has shown the power of working in partnership for the greater good, as individuals and organisations have stepped up to help our country and our health service in what has been described as the toughest health challenge in a generation.
But the crisis has also shown that digital health has never been more important. With health systems having to quickly adapt and reprioritise resources, digital technology has helped to minimise disruption and provide patients and citizens with access to vital services.
At the beginning of the outbreak, health app evaluation and distribution organisation ORCHA identified, reviewed and rated solutions that could provide the best support during the pandemic, adding them into their app libraries, including a dedicated one for COVID-19. In the past couple of months, ORCHA has seen a large increase in both the number of people using these libraries and the number of health and care professionals turning to them to distribute digital health to their patients.
We must ensure that the introduction of new tools and services does not leave anyone behind. Giving citizens a choice about the services that they access and how they do so has never been more important.
As people living with pre-existing medical conditions are at higher risk of developing severe illness from the coronavirus, one of the conditions that citizens have sought most help for is diabetes. To help offer support, Roche Diabetes Care provided free access to the mySugr Pro diabetes management app. Roche also created a data dashboard to triage patients remotely, helping to reduce burden on the NHS.
Another area that has seen an increase in demand is support for sleep. Back in April, digital therapeutics startup Big Health announced a Community Access Programme enabling organisations and their employees to receive free access to their products Sleepio, for poor sleep, and Daylight, for anxiety. The NHS is one of fifty employers that have signed up to this programme, with all 1.2 million employees now able to use these innovative tools.
Patient demand gives clear guidance for tech firms
Elsewhere, tech companies have been working with the NHS to boost access to primary services. One such firm is LIVI, which has been working in partnership with GP surgeries to ensure NHS patients can still access care remotely, with total video appointments increasing 534% between March 2019 and March 2020. The company has also been working with the government to share aggregated data received from their services across the continent, supporting the response to COVID-19.
The demand from patients is clear. iPLATO Healthcare, which provides a mobile patient-facing service, saw transaction volumes on their platform, called myGP, go up from 12 million in February to 27 million in March.
These are just a handful of examples of our members’ contribution to helping to combat the pandemic. But as the benefits of these technologies become more evident than ever, we must ensure that the introduction of new tools and services does not leave anyone behind. Giving citizens a choice about the services that they access and how they do so has never been more important.
To learn the right lessons from this crisis, we will need to evaluate what has worked well, what hasn’t and identify how we can improve. However, one thing is certain: it is vital that the collaboration between the NHS, industry and government continues. The challenge that our members put to us is that there is much more that can be done. Let’s prove that can be delivered.