We kicked off 2023 with the return of our Tech Trends event, hearing from a panel of leading tech and business journalists in the UK on the themes they think will dominate the headlines this year. While none of the journalists focus exclusively on health, the topic of technology, health and life sciences featured high on the agenda, alongside smart homes, satellite messaging, crypto and the metaverse.
Indeed, areas such as deep tech and life sciences are still prime investor targets; something which is being strongly encouraged by the UK Government as part of future science strategy. As Rory Cellan-Jones, ex BBC Tech correspondent and now editor of his new health focussed newsletter pointed out, the acquisition of deep tech / AI company InstaDeep by BioNTech is a sign that people are putting a (literal) price on AI in healthcare. And along with this, we are seeing health and life sciences technology become more pervasive in our everyday lives, from wearables through to AI diagnostics.
With that in mind, there were two big discussion points from the panel – firstly, the growth of AI within healthcare, including the NHS, and secondly whether 2023 will be the year wearables finally take off.
AI (Artificial Intelligence) has been around for decades but, accordingly to several of our panellists, this year might be the time when it goes mainstream for healthcare professionals, life science workers and patients.
For example, radiologists are adopting AI to help pick up early signs of lung cancer on scans. And within drug discovery, AI can be used to sift through vast quantities of data to speed up the process of spotting compounds and molecules that can work to treat disease.
As the panel pointed out, having powerful and standardised infrastructure to enable the roll-out of AI tools in all hospitals will help it become more mainstream and available to all.
The challenge with AI is that too often the conversation is still around the theory, the potential or the threat. There is an element of journalist fatigue with AI stories and only the most engaging and unique stories will succeed. To get cut through, the media need real life examples and use cases of how this technology can transform industries and people’s lives. For most media, we don’t want to get side tracked by the technical elements, but instead focus on the impact this has on the individual or groups of people.
Wearables really took off during the pandemic when consumers started spending more time at home and used these devices to monitor their health and seek medical treatment.
According to our panel, what’s going to be exciting to watch this year is how wearable technology becomes more mainstream in hospital and patient care. For example, not only will we see more wearables helping remote monitoring in clinical trials, but the panel also hoped to see them involved in more direct treatment. For example, Parkinson’s is not an easy disease to quantify, but some exciting new start-ups are looking into this. Cue-1 for example has developed a device that is attached to the patient’s chest and helps to mitigate symptoms – when the device is pressed it delivers a mild vibration to help improve the stuttering gait of people with the disease. The jury is still out on whether this works but it’s an exciting development, and we anticipate seeing more devices like these to help individuals manage and treat symptoms of different diseases.
One big area of concern when discussing wearables is data and access to it. The panel highlighted that we need to recognise the power of data and accept that we might have to relinquish an element of control over our health data to help accelerate innovation.
The challenge from a communications point of view is to make sure their audience is educated around how the data will be used, for what purpose and how it will be protected. Language needs to be clear and simple and the end goal – the reason for accessing data – needs to have the patient at the heart of it. Patient-centric communications is something that will continue to be vital if companies are to retain, or regain, trust with its consumers.
Of course, these two themes only touch the surface of the new developments emerging from the life sciences and health industry, so as comms professionals, we will need to focus on where we prioritise our focus in the year ahead in order to stand out in such a fast-paced market.
For our full write up of the event and insights into wider trends, please click here.