Chris Netherton

Chris Netherton

Managing Director, Microtest

Asthma UK has recently published a report proposing how treatment of the condition can be improved over the coming years. The charity is concerned about the fact that improvements in outcomes for sufferers have levelled off over recent years and that the last major breakthrough in treatment was the introduction of the inhaler.

What struck me as I read some of the publicity surrounding the report was how dramatically digital systems are changing the way we now think about all aspects of healthcare. Here are just some of the suggestions that Asthma UK were putting forward in order to reduce the number of preventable deaths:

  • Smart or connected inhalers, which can help ensure that patients adhere closely to the medication they have been prescribed;
  • Apps that track a patient’s treatment, helping them to understand their individual pattern of illness and the factors that may trigger an attack;
  • Digital tools that help sufferers contact a provider in an emergency – even if they are currently suffering a severe asthma attack;
  • Remote monitoring tools that can be used by GPs and specialists;
  • Conducting asthma check-ups remotely, to achieve better attendance;
  • Having personal treatment plans in digital form, which are easier for patients to understand.

Only a few years ago, such proposals would have been unthinkable because the digital infrastructure needed to support them simply didn’t exist. Today, Asthma UK see digital health as absolutely critical for taking treatment of this disease to the next level – and the same will hold true for many other chronic conditions. Digital health is particularly important for conditions like asthma where ‘self-management’ by the sufferer can have a major impact in improving their overall health – but they need to be provided with the tools that will enable them to do this.

For the 5.4 million asthma sufferers in the UK, it is vitally important that we continue to raise our game in the fields of digital health infrastructure and interoperability, as Asthma UK themselves have highlighted:

“Many promising technologies are already starting to come through, and could be transformational if they are embedded within a connected environment for asthma care. To achieve this, ongoing efforts aimed at tackling longstanding issues such as linking data across all care settings in the NHS need to be resolved, as does ensuring barriers around interoperability in the NHS are removed. Addressing these issues is vital to ensure the NHS as a whole is able to fully respond to the opportunities open to it through the potential of technology-enabled care.”

This is one of the reasons why we at Microtest are so passionate about the work that we do in healthcare software systems and why we are at the leading edge of the drive for interoperability. Our systems have already helped GPs and clinicians to substantially increase the quality of their healthcare, but we can see even greater benefits in the future, as improved systems enable providers to take full advantage of the new technologies that are now becoming more widely available.

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