Telehealth and digital health will simply be: ‘health’

Published by Iñaki Ereño
Group CEO

16 December 2020 . International

Iñaki Ereño, Bupa Group CEO Designate, discusses the acceleration of digital healthcare.

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We always knew digitalisation was much more than a trend, it was the future. But, a year ago, who could have imagined how quickly that future would become our present?

The pandemic has inspired us to embrace innovation and find new ways of working digitally; whether that’s working from home or finding new ways to deliver healthcare during a global public health crisis. Our experience shows how much can be achieved in an extraordinarily short timeframe.

New solutions to health

In 2019 Sanitas provided 300 video consultations a day. When the pandemic hit, we scaled this to 5,000 consultations a day. We also launched BluaU which deploys wearables, the Internet of Things, big data and artificial intelligence to create a ‘digital hospital’ that remotely monitors COVID-19 patients after being discharged. The difference this technology could make to individual wellbeing, public health and sustainability is immeasurable.

In the UK we have expanded access to our video GP service through a partnership with Babylon which provides access to medical advice, diagnosis and prescriptions 24-hours a day.

For example, clients experiencing cardiac symptoms, such as chest pains and palpitations, can access a remote consultation with a cardiologist within 36 hours of contacting our specialist triage team. If further tests are needed, diagnostics are sent to their home.

We are administering chemotherapy and other systemic anti-cancer therapies (SACTs) in people’s homes. And providing rapid detection of skin cancers using at-home imaging kits and remote consultations with dermatologists. In dental we have introduced at-home dental support and oral health reviews via camera and video technology.

Our digital offering and support have been brought together under Bupa From Home, which we will continue develop to empower more people to access help wherever they may be – now, and in the future.

Prevention through technology

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of maintaining good health and preventing disease. We’ve seen that obesity and existing health conditions such as diabetes, kidney disease and severe asthma increase the risk of becoming seriously ill, or dying, from COVID-19. Prevention, early detection and effective treatment reduces the impact of conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Digital health, state-of-the-art technologies will help medical teams identify not only who is most at risk of specific challenges, but also who is most likely to benefit from expensive therapies; thereby reducing costs and unnecessary treatments.

The role of digitalised healthcare is not to replace hands-on diagnosis and treatment. It is there to complement, expand, improve and personalise the care we provide, regardless of the setting, be it at home or in a hospital.

What’s more, remote working may be here for the long term. That presents companies with increased responsibilities and challenges around caring for their people remotely, maintaining a healthy workforce and attracting the best talent. It is clear that digital healthcare is going to be an important and growing part of that approach.

Iñaki recently joined a discussion on digital healthcare, hosted by the Bupa UK team. You can listen to it here.


Iñaki Ereño

Group CEO

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