• Becky Sarson

The Man With The Nokia 6210

So I’m on the train to London, and I have just heard a ringtone I have not heard since the Trigger Happy TV days….

My god, the person in front of me has just received a genuine phone call on a Nokia 6210. The one with the infrared on the top of it – I never ever really understood the point of this feature! The novelty of watching this guy use this NON-COLOUR, analogue mobile phone soon gave way to an overwhelming sense of anxiety: how does he find the answer to anything out? How did he know what time the train was this morning? How does he send email? Does he even have email?? So many questions…

This chap on the train was a flashback to the early 2000’s and it got me to thinking how technology is so central to managing our work lives, social lives, recreational activities (no, I’m not talking about porn!), information needs and our health.

The Smartphone

46.4 million people in the UK now own a smartphone and this number is predicted to rise to 53.96 million by 2022. This is not just localised to the UK. A similar rate of adoption is seen across the EU. We all know this ownership led to internet use via a smartphone overtaking that of the computer some time ago and like never before, populations are accessing information, via their smartphone.

Around 43% of people search their symptoms on Google first before going to the doctor, with the volume of health-related queries rising at 7% year on year. The smartphone gives people an oracle for answers, in the moment that they need them, to their most private worries about their health issues.

Unfortunately the information presented is not always hugely accurate – Aloe Vera Juice is VERY unlikely to cure ovarian cancer, but the good news is these searches show us that people are trying to access information and become more informed about their health. These searches also give us in industry an insight in to the true worries that people have, and the services that are attempting to meet these needs.

The smartphone is also providing people with access to peers, through support groups. Previously people in urbanised areas would have had to gather at their local community centre or hospital to meet peers for support. Assuming there was a local advocacy group, and their doctor knew about it to recommend it.

If you had a rare disease however the chances of meeting a patient or carer like you in your local community would be very low, giving rise to a feeling of loneliness and isolation. Now however, the smartphone, through social channels, has given rise to thousands of very specialised support groups for communities of patients or carers from across the globe for connection and support.

How does Mr Nokia 6210 access these services?


So following on from the smartphone, applications were next.

There are over 2.8m apps in the Android store and 2.2m in the Apple store with over 47,000 of these being classified as health applications3. Not all of these are maintained, or indeed add value but the quantity of applications does give us an indication of the appetite for smartphone-based interventions to manage health-related problems. Indeed, there are some applications available that are genuinely changing the way we access and manage aspects of our wellbeing, treatment, diagnosis and health services.

Through analysis of issues across the patient value-chain services like Babylon, Health Tap and Echo are all changing and commercialising the way we access vital healthcare services from appointments to prescriptions.

Applications are also become a vital part of patient support programmes, helping patients post-prescription to access services to help them track progress on medication, manage their medication deliveries and access their support network/teams if needed. Using these services, patients like never before, are working in partnership with their healthcare teams to become more informed and take greater ownership of their healthcare.

Finally in more of a self-care environment, applications are making softer services that would have been previously unheard of and thereby unaccessible, available to all. Applications like headspace for example, give the general public access to mindfulness modules that could help someone to deal with personal challenges from anxiety and depression to insomnia and a diagnosis of cancer.

In the days of the Nokia 6210 applications were not programmes available through an icon on the phones’ proverbial desktop….’applications’ was still a mass noun: The action of putting something into operation.

Hardware, Software and Gadgets

Smarter and more sophisticated wearables collecting all kinds of nuanced data about ourselves and our health without intervention from the user, are becoming mainstream.

Previously the smartwatch was an accessory for the fitness fanatics or uber-geeks. Wearables, (mainly thanks to Apple and Samsung) are now the norm with a current growth at 16.7% and a projection of 16% total market share of the wearable device market by 2021. These watches are collecting ever more sophisticated data about ourselves and the way we lead our lives, which when analysed through a disease/treatment-specific lens can give invaluable insight in to exacerbation points, triggers and progress over time.

Alongside the consumer devices there is also a rise in health-specific hardware being funded and launched across the globe. For example: SmartMonitor is enabling freedom to those that are prone to seizures, Peek Vision provides eye care diagnostic solutions using the smartphone and in home lab testing facilities such as Thriva are all being readied for wider market availability.

Technologies such as facial mapping are now becoming mainstream thanks to the iPhone X.This will also provide us in the not so distant future with possibilities for early stroke detection, or a heart attack warning system, muscle degeneration tracking, skin cancer diagnosis and much more….

None of these replace the HCP, but they do provide us with greater insight in to our health, wellness and the treatments prescribed for maintenance giving greater opportunity for earlier, and more appropriate intervention, as well as a closer partnership with healthcare teams to manage these conditions collaboratively.

Im getting really anxious about mr Nokia 6210 now…

Internet of Things (IoT)

Many of us are living in technological ecosystems without even recognising it. We have access to information from many different devices, most of which are covered off above: Smartphones, Smart Watches (everything is ‘smart’!), remote testing and monitoring systems – all of which are recording information about us all the time.

Once this data is collected, aggregated, contextualised and translated in to information relevant to the person, their disease or their situation it provides an invaluable tool for the network of HCPs, carers and patients themselves for effective management of their health.

The power of IoT is only just being recognised in the development of support programmes but I believe as devices become increasingly accessible, sophisticated and nuanced this landscape will only become more and more integral to the management of patients.

I don’t think the 6210’s infrared is capable of pulling this information and sharing it with connected devices – worried!…

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

Although not here yet we are already imagining the possibilities that AI could bring to the healthcare space and whether we like it or not, AI will transform our global healthcare systems over the next 10 years.

Regulatory, ethical, legal and compliance systems will all need to evolve to meet the changing landscape but placing this to one side for now, the application of AI could provide huge benefits to both patients, HCPs and their caregivers.

AI could expedite the drug discovery process. Processing information from across the globe faster than any human would ever be able to do, assimilating this and applying these learnings to drugs in development. This has the potential to reduce the drug development process to not only be faster (a potential reduction to ~5 years to market) but more targeted. This means we have the potential to discover more efficacious treatments and cures than ever before at a rate that is unprecedented in the current technological climate.

Diagnostics could also become more accurate, especially within rare diseases. More sophisticated data on patients: IoT, gene testing, labs and screening could all be processed more rapidly and a diagnosis reached at a much faster rate than ever before. This means that patients are referred to the right specialist and are prescribed the appropriate treatment much sooner. This finally eradicates the 7-10 year diagnosis cycles so often seen in rare diseases. This has the potential to change the course of the disease for that patient, improving QoL much sooner and for the longer term.

A new, much needed approach to interventional care for vulnerable populations could also be adopted. People with mental health disorders could be linked to home assistants that help track and manage that persons wellbeing, aligned to their ‘normal’ – giving them the individualised care that they need; enabling more independent living.

Geriatric care could (wait for it!) be ‘sexy’ again with older populations not having to move in to care homes, where estimates show that rates of depression increase and reported QoL decreases, as the patient feels a sense of loss of independence and an adjustment to living with an institutionalised routine. Instead, we could provide a new era of assisted living, with care givers and health professionals linked at all times and notified if there are any changes to this persons ‘normal’. 

And back again

So I have spent a lot of time worrying about this man, and his Nokia 6210, but the reality is that this culturally shocking use of archaic technology is fine to criticise from the luxury of our pampered first world reality, but in some of the worlds poorest countries this is the technology that is connecting patients and HCPs.

Text messages still provide an effective way to support patients across remote geographies – for example, mothers straight after giving birth to their first child are helped through the first few months by text messages. This is just one example being employed in Africa.

Frankly I think this simple form of communication is amazing. It’s sometimes very easy to get sucked in to our technological advancements in healthcare that we forget the simplicity of that personal touch, and ‘real’ interaction.

I believe there has never been a more exciting time to be lucky enough to be solving genuine problems for patients and HCPs. Whether these interventions use some of the technologies above, print solutions or even the Nokia 6210, we are in a transformational age and the future will be revolutionised by the effective and appropriate application of these technologies to the right problems – the age of the gimmick is nearly behind us and I couldn’t be more excited!

I’m off to CEX to buy that guy a smartphone – his Nokia 6210 still makes me anxious!

  1. https://www.statista.com/statistics/553464/predicted-number-of-smartphone-users-in-the-united-kingdom-uk/

  2. https://searchenginewatch.com/2016/11/09/how-google-symptom-search-will-affect-the-healthcare-industry/

  3. https://www.statista.com/statistics/779910/health-apps-available-ios-worldwide/

  4. https://techcrunch.com/2017/08/24/global-wearables-market-to-grow-17-in-2017-310m-devices-sold-30-5bn-revenue-gartner/

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