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Digital Health

Our health is something each of us owns, yet the majority of us take for granted. It’s only when your health becomes compromised that you begin to realise how uncontrollable and isolating it can be.

The NHS is a service everyone is quick to criticise, but with our struggling economy it’s been virtually impossible for the public sector to continue to deliver great services. We can’t deny we are in desperate need of intelligent, creative, and affordable interventions, and current technologies could be the start of this solution.

As a designer I can’t deny that the opportunities this presents is thrilling. With the introduction of Apple Health and wearable trackers such as Fitbit we are now able to know everything about our bodies on immediate demand from our heart rate, the number of steps we take, and how much we are sleeping. Technology is even starting to play a role in mental health and wellbeing with apps such as Buddy and Headspace.

However, I can’t decide if these growing and varied technologies present themselves as more of a threat. I agree that being aware of your body and being motivated to keep healthy is something we should all be conscious of, but should we need an app do this? My greatest concern is the fact that most of these services are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Furthermore, I worry that the introduction of all these different types of technologies may add more confusion between GPs and hospitals as people may grow to misdiagnose themselves and become hypochondriacs.

That being said, what I find the most interesting are the rising number of communities of people who suffer from similar illnesses. It’s extremely common that people suffering from chronic physical conditions often end up developing mental health issues alongside this, yet this often goes unnoticed and the support available is minimal. Technology is making it easier to find a free and constant support system. This is normally seen as the soft stuff, the unimportant stuff, as people are no longer in hospital or in regular contact with their doctor so are therefore fine. But the need for a social support system is vital to recovery, mental health, and keeping the readmission rates down.

Being healthy used to mean being devoid of viruses or disease, but is now more about a general sense of wellbeing and I’m interested to see how technology may help us on our way to living happier and healthier for longer.

Louise Mushet, Innovation Consultant, Macmillan Cancer Support

www.louisemushet.com

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