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Health data from wearable tech could help save lives – and the NHS, claims expert
Using the data provided by wearable tech such as sports
watches and smartphone health apps could highlight serious medical issues
in real-time and – if allied to NHS IT processes – automatically trigger
a clinical reaction without the normal GP referral process, potentially
saving thousands of lives and billions of pounds a year. So says medical
health expert, Ashley Davids.
Thousands of heart attacks and strokes could be prevented
each year if the health data of wearable tech such as sports watches was
harnessed by the NHS, says leading clinician Ashley Davids. In a recent
interview with the CX Insider podcast team, Davids, who has a long
career in both public and private healthcare, says that:
“It’s already too late when the heart attack or stroke has
occurred,” says Davids. “Not only is this life threatening to the patient
but it costs the NHS billions in treating the aftermath, with weeks in
hospital and months of recovery. But the signs of an oncoming attack –
such as heightened stress levels – can often be identified by the smart
wearable tech that we are increasingly wearing.
“Prevention is always better than cure, so imagine a time
when your smart watch identifies a serious issue, alerts the NHS systems
and directs you to go to a hospital for immediate care. No GP referrals,
no drawn-out processes – just real time health care. The potential for
preventing heart attacks and strokes – and the burden on the healthcare
system – would be enormous.”
Freeing up beds
With the NHS struggling to get back on track after the
pandemic and waiting lists for care longer than ever, connecting our
everyday wearable tech to the NHS’ IT systems offers the potential to
reduce a major burden on the UK’s healthcare system. It could free up
thousands of bed days by treating the symptoms before they become
There is a precedent for securely managing patient data on a
vast scale. UK firm ACF Technologies was the creator and provider of the
patient scheduling system for Covid-19 testing and the booking system for
all vaccines and boosters during the pandemic. At the time of writing its
system has so far managed 56 million appointments over 26 million
patients – all without any error or misuse of the data. ACF’s technology
and its experience of bringing together masses of medical data in a
seamless central tech platform shows that it can be done, efficiently and
“Data has the potential to be the fourth emergency service,
recording more in a day about the users’ health than an annual check-up
ever could,” says Davids. “When allied with artificial intelligence it
could constantly update and get cleverer at predicting when health
emergencies will occur. If these could be allied to the NHS’s own systems
it would identify which patients to see first, streamlining the process,
preempting emergencies and saving lives.
Can you afford not to share data?
Wearable tech offers a lifeline for both users and the NHS.
Thousands of people are walking around every day with medical data that
the NHS could use to predict when they are going to be seriously unwell.
The question is: are people willing to share it with the NHS? If they
were given access then at some predefined level of symptoms gathered on
the wearable device, a ‘ping’ could be sent by the NHS telling the
user/patient to attend an appointment with a relevant specialist/A&E
- not wholly unlike the Track & Trace system used during the
While useful in theory, incorporating wearable tech into the
health ecosystem faces a number of technical and administrative hurdles.
A primary challenge would be to gather the data, verify it and approve
it. Only approved devices would be allowed to submit data to the NHS, as
rogue data would corrupt diagnosis, with possibly dire consequences.
“If properly harnessed by AI and a robust patient scheduling
system, the potential for improving wellbeing and reducing the burden on
the NHS is enormous,” concludes Davids. “If a person’s wearable tech
registered a condition that needed medical intervention the NHS could
swing into action in curing it before the patient themself even realized
they had a problem. And who wouldn’t want to be wearing something they
knew was looking out for them?”