by Kazeem Olalekan MRPharmS
The use of technology in healthcare has been at the heart of what Iforg Limited is all about from the very beginning. Our tagline should therefore come as no surprise. At the outset, I have been fascinated by technology. I posted a few years back how I discovered computers when in my final year at the University of Sunderland. The backspace key fascinated me relative to the now, possibly archaic, correction fluid used in typewriters. In 2002 when I was incorporating the business, I was fascinated by the somewhat acrimonious conversations happening in pharmacy, my profession, about whether people should be able to buy medications via online pharmacies. As a young pharmacist then, I was surprised because I could see that many other businesses where embracing this technology. The British Retail Consortium (BRC) reported that this Christmas, online sales of non-food products in the UK grew 19.2% in December versus a year earlier, the highest growth in four years. The online penetration rate achieved 18.6% in December. The key point here is that we must engage constructively with technology if we are to maximise its benefits.
Not always positive
Whilst technology can have beneficial effects, this is not always the case. In pharmacy, we have witnessed the proliferation of bogus and criminal sites selling counterfeited medicines which put lives at risk. Furthermore, information technology has given visibility to vast sways of our lives which were otherwise invisible before. The notion of privacy is now non-existence to the proletariat, whilst a vast number of the privileged, probably still enjoy a certain level of privacy. Privilege, in this case, is not necessarily due to the size of your bank balance but rather your access to information obtained legally, illegally or covertly. Information has become the currency of the day and that is a big concern. These information can be abused and it is incumbent on government and reputable private corporations to do the right things and keep our valuable information confidential, away from prying eyes. The need for confidentiality is not because we necessarily have anything to hide but because we will like to deal with certain issues privately, between man and his god, away from the judgements and clouded perception of fellow human travellers. Our secret agencies need to understand that access to our information is a privilege. The agencies main role is to keep us safe and those access to information must only be used to keep us safe: No more…No less.
It is poignant therefore that Iforg Limited (remember Iforg derived: Information Organisation) exists as an organisation to provide quality information about technology and healthcare. I couldn’t have planned the trajectory the company has taken over the last 11 years. The company itself is not rich but it has a rich heritage which I am now very proud of. The key question of whether there is a constant called God has been solved to my satisfaction. I will in time provide a mathematical model to support the existence of God. I feel the believers, can go forth with confidence that there is a God to be proud of. He is a God of peace not war, a God of reason – the ultimate philosopher, a great engineer and a wonderful experimental scientist. He is a God that has faith in you.
As the global economic projections start to indicate a turning of a corner, it is important to start to think differently. To start to a rethink the failed strategies of the past and develop robust blueprint for future growth. It is very easy to be cynical, since it is customary to re-think strategies after a global meltdown only for history to repeat itself..again! There is one difference: We live in unprecedented time (is that a grin?) where we have been able to obtain a great deal of information to understand what we are like as humans. Are we going to learn from that information or are we just going to sit on it? Are we going to continue to let a vast proportion of world wealth to be concentrated on a few hands or are we going to start introducing models that truly reward innovation? As Lord Adair Turner reflected in a BBC radio 4 interview recently that (from 1:54:00):
I think there is a growing awareness across the world that for instance, the wonders of information technology, which I think is remarkable…one of the feature of it is it doesn’t create many new jobs. It tends to automate away existing jobs. Compared to, for example, earlier waves of technology e.g. car industry, this is not a job creating industry…at its peak General Motors employed 900,000 people, Facebook employs 5,000 people and Google employs 50,000 people…these are very very high paid jobs. We are creating a small number of high paid jobs and lots and lots of small paid jobs.
This is a big concern and has led to resistance in embracing new technological development and result sometimes in sabotage. No matter how you coat it, the reality is that jobs are lost and people at the top cream the lot! This is unsustainable if we want to grow together. I am especially concerned for the healthcare area where we could make real progress in tackling diseases if we embrace technology. The reason why pharmacy in those early days resisted the introduction of online stores, was because the pharmacy independent owners feared that multiples and other interests groups. They were afraid, I think, of the effect on their profit margins. It was real and imagined but in any case those that did not embrace that technology are now counting the costs. Healthcare is my passion and I will be very dismayed if anyone stands between me and my company’s mission to make giant inroads into tackling diseases.
Iforg project objectives has been described to include at least one or many of the following:
- Enhance Healthcare Productivity
- Reduce Incidence of Clinical Errors
- Provide Superior Integration of systems
- Reduce the ‘usability burden’ on healthcare professionals
- Simplify by Automation a Healthcare Task
- New or Novel way of performing a Healthcare Task
- Improve the clinical and practice knowledge of healthcare professionals
Technologies Today for Tomorrow
I will now like to highlight here some technologies that made the news recently which I feel could be significant tomorrow:
1.0: Google and Smart Contact Lens Project
The ‘do no evil’ guys at Google unveiled their new contact lens project for people with diabetes earlier this month. This is likely to represent a step change in glucose monitoring. There is of course more work to be done but there appears to be some good correlation between tear glucose & blood glucose (1,2,3). There is of course the safety aspects of wearing such a device for long periods of time. The Google technology buffs will be discussing this development project with the FDA and partner with healthcare experts to help bring product to market. That can only be great news for those patients with diabetes whose diabetes lifestyle revolves solely around diabetes monitoring.
2.0: Mark and his needle-free vaccine patch
Mark Kendall is an Australian biomedical engineer, who was part of a team at the University of Queensland that advanced the Nanopatch by vaccinating animals. The Nanopatch, as he describe, has a number of advantages with respect to administration site (better immune response in some trials relative to traditional syringes) and sensitivity at low vaccine concentrations thus bringing cost down. It also does not require a cold chain! Well, please watch the video and dare I say, watch this space.
In this age of wearable healthcare technology, the infographic by ZocDoc is poignant. You know I love technology but it is possible to over do it though. I like my technology to be functional and discreet – just like myself really!
Wearable tech – An infographic by the team at ZocDoc