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Healthcare innovation: a cure for a more inclusive future

Updated: Mar 4

The real-world impact of inequality is clear in healthcare. Between 2011-2021, health inequalities are reported to have contributed to more than a million early deaths in England alone.  


With the UK’s life sciences industry growing continuously, we have an opportunity to reduce that figure, now more than ever. We can begin to create a more inclusive future – and we’re looking at healthcare innovation as a way forward.  


Inclusivity in healthcare: for patients and practitioners

At EarSwitch, we define an inclusive healthcare system as one where everyone has access to the most effective and appropriate care, regardless of age, race, disability, digital access, socioeconomic status, geography, or any other factors. 


Yet achieving inclusivity in healthcare isn’t as simple as defining it. There are many barriers to delivering equitable healthcare for all in the UK and globally, including: 


 

  • Difficulty providing consistent, quality health education, which is delivered in an appropriate format accessible to all.  

  

  • The logistics of reaching all communities, such as people who live in more rural areas and don’t have direct connections to healthcare services, aren't digitally literate, or don’t feel they have the time to visit a practitioner. Reliable online access is also a barrier, with 7% of UK households not having internet access at home

 

Technology cannot overcome these challenges alone. However, it does present an opportunity by equipping professionals with an additional tool to help engage with, monitor, and deliver effective healthcare for all. 


Innovating for inclusivity in healthcare

There are many examples of innovators seizing this opportunity, some that are becoming firmly integrated into the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) and others that are in their infancy. 

 

Here are three ways that technology is already transforming healthcare, and how innovators can make sure their solutions are as accessible, equitable, and inclusive as possible.  


Remote patient monitoring

Virtual wards and ‘Hospital at Home’ are connecting people to remote healthcare services, rather than requiring them to visit or stay in clinical settings.  


Consider that, according to Age UK, almost 1.5 million people aged 65+ find it quite or very difficult to travel to hospital. Consider also that people are refusing sicknotes because of the financial implications of taking time off work. Virtual wards could remove some of the hurdles to healthcare for more people, regardless of geography or financial status.  


However, innovators must think carefully about the digital divide here, as high-tech solutions aren’t always the answer. This has informed our in-ear biometric sensor, EarMetrics®, which we expect will be integrated into ‘everyday’ devices – from hearing aids to earbuds to at-home first aid equipment. As a result, we aim to offer connection to remote monitoring for as many people that wish to gain it , based on credible health metrics.  


Precision healthcare

Technology is also enabling practitioners to monitor patients, identify declining health proactively, and provide personalised treatments based on their specific needs. 


Many companies are already demonstrating how wearables can enable precision healthcare. Sanius, for instance, is empowering people with sickle cell disease and haematological conditions to monitor their symptoms and share data with clinicians. For those with difficulties communicating, Milbotix SmartSocks™ give carers a non-intrusive way to detect agitation and provide assistance.  


To follow these examples, innovators need to prioritise equitable data collection. After all, wearables and other data recording devices can only allow precision healthcare if they’re presenting data that is credible, medical grade, and contextual across all patients, regardless of age, race, mobility, or anything else. 


Better serving of underserved communities

The NHS Core20PLUS5 – which identifies the most deprived 20% of the population and the five areas of healthcare that need improvement – is a reminder of how broad inequality in healthcare is. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to better serving underserved communities.  


However, by working closely with the communities they intend to support, companies can innovate to break down the barriers they face. A great example of this in action comes from The Essential Baby Co and the haPPIE health education programme, which connect marginalised communities to healthcare, including projects informed by local services, patients, and clinicians.  


Equitable data collection is also crucial here, which is why EarMetrics® aims to record racially inclusive data from a site less affected by skin colour. 


Looking ahead to a fairer future for all

Innovation certainly isn’t the only cure for inequality in healthcare. There are many challenges to tackle, which could spread from systemic racism to the digital divide.  


Nevertheless, while top-down change happens, tech companies can help to bridge the gaps that persist with bottom-up innovation. This means engaging everyone within the conversation – including regulators and healthcare providers, but probably more importantly patient advocacy groups, patients themselves, and clinicians.


If you’d like to learn more about our vision for inclusivity in healthcare, check out this blog next. It explores the potential of EarMetrics® further, alongside how we intend to partner with companies who share our vision.  

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