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FierceBiotech Executive Summit: can the UK lead on digital health?

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The digital health space is fast growing and promises to revolutionise healthcare access and provision globally. The UK has been an early adopter of digital healthcare technologies, and the availability of large national datasets such as those available through the National Health System (NHS) is a major source of opportunity for the differentiation of the UK in this market. In 2018, the UK market size for digital health is expected to grow to £2.9bn ($3.73bn), largely driven by mobile Health (mHealth) apps (Monitor Deloitte, 2015). Opportunities to accelerate the digital transformation of healthcare in the UK are being increasingly explored through the adoption of emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI), big data, predictive diagnostics, wearables, and the internet of things (IoT).

Experts at the FierceBiotech Executive Summit in London on October 30 discussed how the UK can be better engaged in the digital health industry and better positioned to become a leader in the digital health market. The key barriers that were identified as impeding the UK’s success in the digital healthcare market included the lack of clarity and ownership on data collection; data access, use, and handling across systems; the potential problems of data interoperability across systems; and political barriers such as consent, security, and governance of data. Despite these ongoing issues, experts agreed that the UK has the right infrastructure to overcome these barriers.

However, the main question asked at the summit was whether pharmaceutical companies can get the NHS to adopt new digital health therapies fast enough. Currently, the NHS hopes to achieve full digital capability by 2020 but appears to be trailing behind this projected date in some areas, including the implementation of paperless operations, which would enable patients to have full access to their electronic medical records.

Overall, it is clear that the UK is well positioned and has great competitive advantage on the global digital health market. However, there is still much that can be improved upon when it comes to building the capabilities to successfully commercialise and scale up digital health technologies.

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