From Colombia to Japan, discover the global health disruptors that are changing lives
IN ASSOCIATION WITH
Future London Health Supplement
All around the world, technological innovations are helping to improve healthcare.
But could these new technologies be part of our future too?
From a diabetes app to the world’s first internet hospital, find out about some of them below…
Entrepreneur nurses taking charge of the community
The Netherlands is looking to the past to find the future of healthcare, with an innovative community-nurse scheme that ditches managers and prioritises patient time.
Buurtzorg, or “neighbourhood care”, involves teams of 12 nurses taking charge of 40-60 patients in the area in co-ordination with GPs. Each nurse acts as a “health coach” for the individual and their family, emphasising preventive measures but also delivering necessary care.
There are now roughly 900 teams in the Netherlands, supported by just 50 administrators and 20 trainers. The nurses have complete autonomy, running everything from finances to training. Plans are being proposed for Guy’s and St Thomas’ Foundation Trust to adopt this radical method of community nursing.
Smart homes to monitor the elderly
Care of the elderly and infirm is going high-tech in Düsseldorf, which is trialling a “smart home” that can detect if its inhabitants are in trouble. The e-healthcare pilot aims to enable senior citizens to live safely and longer at home through passive digital monitoring, or sensors. Relatives or carers receive information via an app several times a day and messages in case of emergencies.
Professor Andreas Meyer-Falcke, health councillor for Düsseldorf, says: “Düsseldorf wants to set a good example with this launch. We want to show that digital solutions are to the benefit of all and can be used to contribute to tangible improvements in living conditions and, in particular, healthcare.”
The person’s data, which is accessible only to an authorised list of people, is collected from the sensors. It is transmitted to a gateway through the internet and hosted in a data centre in Düsseldorf, which is subject to Germany’s IT and personal datasecurity legislation.
San Francisco, USA
Tackling diabetes with a smartphone
In the United States almost 10 per cent of the population has diabetes — roughly 30 million people. About half a million Londoners are living with Type 2 diabetes and the figure is set to rise.
In San Francisco
A promising artificial intelligence app has been developed that monitors diabetics and gives continuous advice to maintain insulin levels. The sufferer downloads Virta to their phone and regularly enters data including glucose levels, weight and blood pressure. This can be done manually or via a FitBit.
The app also asks questions about energy levels and hunger. Virta’s doctors receive this data to help them decide on treatment. Co-founder Sami Inkinen, also a diabetic, told Newsweek: “Any clinical decision is always made by a doctor but the software increases productivity
tenfold.” Clinical trials have apparently shown that diabetes can be reversed if the rules are strictly followed. About 87 per cent of patients who had been relying on insulin to control their condition either decreased their dose or eliminated their use of insulin completely.
Banning cars from streets to boost exercise
Every Sunday, from 7am to 2pm, the streets of Bogotá fill with cyclists, runners, rollerbladers and skaters of all ages as the city closes the roads to vehicles, and citizens take back the streets. The world’s biggest mass recreation event, it has spread to almost half of the countries in the Americas.
The women have the option of using the eggs until they reach 45. They were paid 100,000 yen (£720) towards the procedure, which usually costs 500,000-600,000 yen (£3,500). The project, which has just ended, cost roughly 90 million yen and it is hoped it will improve the pregnancy rate for older women. Some experts say there are no guarantees this will work, with the Japan Society of Obstetrics and Gynaecology saying the success rate is 17 per cent when a woman is aged 35, and drops to below 1 per cent once she reaches 45.
In Japan women lose their right to subsidised fertility treatment if their annual household income rises above 7.3 million yen, a figure that penalises older women. “Hopefully it will improve the pregnancy rate for women in that older age group,” says Iwaho Kikuchi of Juntendo University Urayasu hospital.
World’s first ‘internet hospitals’
China has been leading the world in “telemedicine” for years, with private firms allowing patients to connect with a doctor via their smartphone and see consultants for follow-up appointments via videolink.
However, last month the Chinese government gave the go-ahead for “internet hospitals” and issued a set of guidelines governing their use. They must be attached to a traditional bricks-and-mortar hospital. Initial consultations must take place in person, and vulnerable patients need to see a doctor face to face. Patients with certain chronic diseases are now allowed to use the internet to complete hospital return visits.
Under the new rules, patients visit a local medical facility and meet a doctor from a big city hospital online. The patient answers questions and shows or sends images of their medical checks to the doctor through the internet. Meanwhile, data for the patient’s body temperature, blood pressure and blood glucose concentrations can be obtained by devices onsite and uploaded to the diagnostic system. The doctor can then prescribe for the patient online. A few minutes later the prescription is printed out.
Shenzen, in southern China, recently welcomed its first internet hospital, attached to a real medical centre and backed by the government, one of 17 run by WeDoctor nationwide