Its research, published today, shows that over 60% of the population are interested in having apps prescribed by the NHS (over 70% for those under 39, and 65% for those in their forties). There is particularly high demand for ones to treat or prevent depression, pain management, obesity, diabetes and cancer.
In fact, people are already taking the matter into their own hands because of problems accessing GPs, with 55% of adults self-diagnosing their symptoms online in past 6 months, partly through challenges of getting appointments over the past 6 months.
Dr James Graveston, Zühlke’s Health & MedTech lead consultant and a former hospital doctor, says: ‘In recent years, much of the population has started using fitness, diet, and wellness apps to improve their health and emotional wellbeing. They are raring to go with similar and more advanced medical-grade apps from the NHS as part of their treatment.
‘On the one hand, our research findings are good news for helping the NHS’s Herculean task of getting waiting lists down. Apps and other digital medical services are low-cost per-patient to deploy, provide consistent standards, and can bring huge advances in early diagnosis and preventative treatment, especially through integrated AI spotting early signs of serious problems. They are also particularly suitable for treating illnesses that are overwhelming the NHS’s capacity – such as mental health, diabetes and obesity.
‘The not-so-good news is the NHS is way behind in deploying such technologies, and the prospects of it speeding up without strong government intervention are not good. For instance, you can walk into almost any gym and get detailed information about your fitness activity and even body composition straight to your mobile phone. But go into a modern hospital or GP surgery and it’s a very different story, with little smart technology being used to support your treatment nor even give you basic medical information. It’s a situation that won’t change anytime soon.
‘This poor state is a huge shame as for decades policymakers and medics have been keen to increase preventative treatment to stop illnesses at their early stages – which is clearly better for the patient and also cheaper for the health service. But it has not happened. Prescription medical apps, with properly joined-up digital plumbing behind them, would allow early intervention preventing high-risk individuals getting ill in the first place.’