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Social Innovation

The rise of the power patient

The era when healthcare was solely the preserve of hospitals, doctors and other healthcare practitioners is long gone. We are entering an age where patients increasingly take their health and wellbeing into their own hands.

Empowered by the Internet and equipped with personalised, smart technology, we are entering the age of the power patient.

A patient’s first point of call may now be Google rather than their doctor, and new technologies can help patients make better and more informed decisions in relation to their health. We see this with smart phone apps such as Microsoft HealthVault, which has the ability to monitor various statistics about a patient’s health and enables them to act on the results. Connected health solutions encourage early prevention of diseases as patients take a more dedicated approach towards lifestyle choices which could affect their health.

Smart solutions such as mobile health apps and wearable technologies are also a crucial part of revolutionising care. Remote monitoring reduces the need for unnecessary face-to-face interaction, improving hospital efficiency and reducing cost. This will be especially significant for the health and wellbeing of the elderly. With research finding the number of people aged 65 or over is projected to grow to 1.5 billion by 20501, technologies aiding the care of the elderly will become increasingly vital. Conditions like Alzheimer’s require a great deal of monitoring meaning that patients have to move out of the comfort of their own home. However, monitoring via sensors, wearable technology and smart phone apps gives Alzheimer’s patients more independence. Caregivers are able to remotely monitor their condition and are immediately alerted if necessary, delaying or even avoiding the move into specialist care.

The concept of the ‘power patient’ is also being driven forward by changing social structures. The global rise of the middle class, particularly apparent in countries such as India and China, has led to the creation of a ‘healthcare elite’. This new social demographic have the means to take more control over their healthcare and are spending money on elective procedures and personalised levels of care. Increased socio-economic empowerment for women across the world also impacts healthcare. Approximately 80-85% of women make healthcare appointments and they are key decision makers for their family members. Research by Frost & Sullivan suggests that women tend to use online tools more than men, meaning they hold a large amount of influence in the increasingly digital healthcare market, and are a key target for businesses trying to market their services online.

Innovations in big data and smart technology are already starting to revolutionise how we deliver care to patients and how they take care of themselves, with a knock on benefit for society as a whole. Smart technologies and increased access to data allow patients to track their own health, make better lifestyle choices and receive care remotely, meaning they can take more care of themselves rather than relying on traditional healthcare providers. Technology truly puts the power in the patients’ hands. This rise of the ‘power patient’ will reduce the burden on healthcare providers and will significantly drive down the costs of the healthcare system.