Tesco knows you better than NHS does, says Hancock

Tesco knows you better than NHS does, says Hancock

That's the conclusion of a new report issued yesterday by eminent United States cardiologist, geneticist and digital medicine guru Eric Topol (below), who has produced recommendations for how the NHS and healthcare professionals need to adapt to make the most of the technology.

Adam Steventon, director of data analytics at the Health Foundation, said: "This report tackles some of the thorniest and most urgent issues facing the NHS - the need to make the NHS fit for the future by adopting new technology, to make the most of the NHS's valuable data and to harness the digital revolution to improve care for patients". The review also assured that robots will not leave human practitioners out of a job for the time being, as technology will only enhance their roles.

Smart speakers, such as Siri and Alexa, were also envisioned as having a "major impact" on care.

The NHS is not yet making the most of existing technologies and data analytics, he explained, and is overstretched with a "shortfall of 100,000 staff".

Evidence suggests the technology could save 5.7m hours of GPs' time across England annually, the report says.

For years, patients have already been able to speak with NHS chatbots online to identify common health concerns and receive advice but in the future, mental health patients will be able to hold conversations with triage bots via smart speakers, which will be able to identify warning signs of suicidal behavior.

Virtual reality could be used in reducing pain and distress for wounded patients, and treat anxiety, phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder.

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The assistance of robots in surgery could be expanded, and robots could also automate repetitive tasks such as dispensing pharmaceuticals.

The NHS genomic medicine service has the ambition to sequence - or read and record - up to five million genomes over the next five years.

It suggested that patients should be included as "partners" and informed about health technologies, that training and guidance should be given to healthcare staff and that technologies should, wherever possible, be used to allow staff to gain more time to care.

Gene editing could also soon be an essential tool in treating genetic diseases says the report.

The report was led by Eric Jeffrey Topol, an American cardiologist, geneticist, and digital medicine researcher. The new wealth of data to be gathered could be considered intrusive, particularly when it comes to genomic information, the paper warns. Communication with AI could for example be felt "manipulative or deceptive" and this means that patients need to know beforehand if they are interacting with a human or a machine. Topol said that this advancement has the potential to "greatly strengthen patient-doctor relationships" and "reduce the burnout we can see in a significant proportion of clinicians today".

The health secretary, Matt Hancock, said: "Our health service is on the cusp of a technology revolution and our brilliant staff will be in the driving seat when it happens".

"We must better understand the enablers of change and create a culture of innovation, prioritising people, developing an agile and empowered workforce, as well as a digitally capable leadership and effective governance processes to facilitate the introduction of the new technologies, supported by long-term investment", the report concludes. It has the potential to make working lives easier for dedicated NHS staff and free them up to use their medical expertise and do what they do best: "care for patients".

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