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How the NHS will move from 'stone age to digital age'

From helping humans live longer and hacking our performance, to repairing the body and understanding the brain, WIRED Health will hear from the innovators transforming this critical sector. Read all of our WIRED Health coverage here.

The NHS needs to change from being "reactive to proactive," one of the organisation's key innovation advisors has said.

Mahiben Maruthappu, the co-founder of the NHS Innovation Accelerator, told WIRED Health that over the coming years the organisation needed to be more flexible and open to change.

He said the NHS needed to move "from one size fits all, to one size fits many, to one size fits one".

This will be possible, according to Maruthappu, through increased innovation and personalisation of the services available. "The NHS has performed remarkably well over the last 15 years," he said, despite constraints on funding and pressures on staff.

During the next five years the NHS will move from the "stone age to the digital age". To do this, Maruthappu said, the NHS will use new technologies to give patients more control over their healthcare.

"Direct consumer approaches now allow patients to sequence their own genomes at the fraction of the cost," he said.

Wearable technology that allows patients to monitor their own bodies and health; 3D printing that could one day print organs developing towards printing organs; and digital medical records (a process the NHS aims to have completed by 2020) will also allow patients to care for themselves, he said.

As well as medical applications, such as genomics sequencing, Maruthappu said big data would allow the NHS to predict illnesses and their spread. Utilising data about patients and their treatments could also allow those working in healthcare to proactively treat patients.

Away from data, Maruthappu said that innovation would not only benefit patients, but staff as well. He stressed that those working in the NHS would also need to see "organisational change" to allow the service provided to keep up with technology.

Clinicians need to be given "headspace and breathing space" so they can work out the best ways to use innovation to improve their work.

He said the NHS must explore "new ways of working that are clinically driven". In addition to those working within the NHS, external partnerships to drive innovation must also be made, he claimed.

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