How MedTech could tackle health inequalities in the UK and beyond
It’s time to dive into how MedTech is bridging inequalities in health care
You know as well as I do, Medical Technology (MedTech) is revolutionising healthcare. MedTech is already more accessible than ever and can be found everywhere from our hospitals to our smartphones. Although MedTech comes in many forms, they all have one common purpose – to understand and improve people’s health. Traditional healthcare has left many groups behind for factors out of their control. However, we’re seeing that MedTech is empowering once-marginalised groups.
Inequalities come in many forms, and access to basic care is one of them. Across the world, people living in rural communities find themselves in healthcare systems that lack lifesaving treatments that are available elsewhere in the world. Shockingly, around 2/3 of the world lacks meaningful access to basic medical imaging, like X-rays. And a lot of rural areas lack adequate medical infrastructure. But MedTech is bridging this gap with innovations that can bring first-class medical knowledge right into the heart of communities.
Through mobile apps, we can turn our phones into medical tools. For example, The Safe Delivery App provides skilled birth attendants with direct and instant access to evidence-based and up-to-date guidelines. The existing problem the app is trying to tackle is preventing unnecessary deaths related to childbirth and pregnancy. In 2020, 800 women died from preventable causes relating to pregnancy and childbirth. The app already has strategic partnerships across 40 countries in Southeast Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa – guaranteeing more women in rural areas have access to skilled care when giving birth. It’s clear that MedTech apps play an important role in empowering patients by broadening access to healthcare services and making it easier to access advice and support.
In rural areas, patient volumes may not be as high as in urban, more densely populated settings. Because of this, we find leading doctors concentrated in big cities. The world does not have enough clinically trained and specialised physicians in rural locations, leading to significant disparities in health outcomes. However, we are finding solutions to this problem with virtual reality (VR) technology. VR can give a hands-on surgical experience of just about any situation a surgeon could face during their career. VR training will make it easier for rural hospitals to access affordable training and education to provide world-leading surgical results to anyone, despite their location.
In a world where life expectancy is generally increasing, some countries are increasing at a slower rate than others. For example, the UK and US life expectancies are growing at a slower rate than the rest of the G7. In the UK, Blackpool has the lowest life expectancy for males and females. In comparison, affluent London boroughs have the highest life expectancy. Many hope MedTech will help us avoid or manage diseases to stop them from becoming life-threatening, which could help raise life expectancy.
A solution to inequalities in life expectancy could involve Artificial Intelligence (AI). AI is proving it can prevent chronic diseases ahead of treatment – which ranks highly as a leading cause of death globally. A 2020 study found AI is already outperforming radiologists in mammographic screening for breast cancers. Breast cancer is the most common type of cancer in the UK. In 2020, 2.3 million women were diagnosed with breast cancer. AI has already shown that it can detect the signs of cancer that doctors often miss. Similarly, AI has the potential to alleviate pressures on services in the context of the worldwide shortage of radiologists. Right now, like anything new in the medical field, more clinical trials are needed before AI systems can be used widely. But, used right, AI could help people live longer.
Looking to the Future
MedTech presents solutions to some of the biggest health inequalities in healthcare. We’re already seeing amazing examples helping to bridge the healthcare gap. Hopefully, in the near future, most of the world will have access to leading MedTech, regardless of any factors that previously left them behind.
Interested in MedTech?
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