How digital technology is boosting healthcare
First published by The Scotsman
By Arjun Pasenar, Founder, Chief Executive Officer of DDM Health
YouTube, Zoom and Instagram have boosted the popularity of virtual exercise classes and the Couch to 5k mobile app has hit five million downloads since the pandemic started with no signs of slowing down. More people are achieving improvements to their physical and mental health through technology.
But the social determinants of health – particularly income, ethnicity and neighbourhood – make the biggest difference to accessing health services, and engaging with them. Digital therapeutics provide a way of democratising access to health services. The Scottish Government’s Digital Health and Care Strategy recognises the need to improve care and wellbeing in Scotland by making best use of digital technologies in the design and delivery of services.
With enormous advances in digital health innovation, we are quickly moving into an age where software platforms will be treating millions of patients. Digital transformation in healthcare has accelerated the use of technologies like mobile applications, artificial intelligence and virtual reality in order to solve major problems that exist in healthcare delivery.
Unfortunately, non-communicable diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes cause 8 in 10 deaths globally. In Scotland, non-communicable diseases such as cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes and lung disease are responsible for almost 39,000 deaths every year — more than two-thirds of all deaths.
As founding Chief Executive Officer of DDM Health, we have led the development of digital treatments that cater for a diverse and varied community – and deliver our services in over 11 native languages. Our personalised chronic health condition management app is NHS Certified and the highest Orcha rated app ever.
The idea for the service came from a real-life experience of what a technological intervention can do. I supported my grandfather after his diagnosis with type 2 diabetes. As a graduate studying an undergraduate Masters in Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence, I used this knowledge to set up a website to support a global community for people with diabetes. This led to twenty years working with big data and AI to create evidenced-based precision digital health solutions.
DDM Health is one of the winners of the Scotland 5G Centre’s inaugural innovation challenge focusing on ‘Shaping Digital Health and Social Care’. We are working with the S5GConnect team at the rural hub in Dumfries to test and develop new applications using 5G capability. The challenge is to support patients in an area with challenges in terms of distances to hospital and health facilities and an age population. We are looking at regionally relevant solutions to digital connectivity that will make a difference to the community.
The Innovation Challenge will enable us to understand the needs of patients and providers in Dumfries and Galloway so that we can develop a solution with our local partners. We are looking specifically at using digital technologies to support families at home, through the use of innovative digital technologies, remote monitoring and apps to help create positive behavioural change.
Traditional healthcare cannot respond to current demands and needs which presents an opportunity for digital solutions to provide much needed support. We are looking to improve the sophistication of our in-app experiences using the capability provided by 5G and the technical expertise available at the S5GConnect Hub to provide new experiences to users. We hope this can further help them manage their condition independently at home. Proactive AI can encourage behaviour and medication management and also send messages of support, which is vital to combat loneliness and isolation
With so much innovation in this field, we can offer more people whatever their age, stage, culture and background a world where technology can help us to lead healthier and happier lives.
Arjun Panesar is the Founder, Chief Executive Officer of DDM Health and a winner of The Scotland 5G Centre’s Innovation Challenge focusing on ‘Shaping Digital Health and Social Care’.