Andy Murray becomes digital health ambassador

Tennis superstar Andy Murray has teamed up with one of Scotland’s leading innovation centres to highlight the potential of technology to provide more efficient and effective health and care services in the UK and across the world.

The Digital Health & Care Institute’s project portfolio is worth over £4m and includes over 100 projects engaging more than 50 companies, 15 of Scotland’s Universities, 25 third sector organisations and more than 1,000 members from over 20 countries.

Building on his personal interest in digital technologies to improve and monitor health and wellbeing, and with his recent experiences of working with start-up companies in the health, sport and wearable technology markets, Murray’s involvement will raise awareness of DHI’s work with international digital health entrepreneurs and investors. He will also promote skills, educational and career opportunities in this emerging market for young people. Murray plans to also work with the NHS across the UK on campaigns addressing childhood obesity.


Global outlook

The Digital Health & Care Institute brings together people and organisations in the public, charity, technology, design and academic sectors to develop new ideas for digital technology that will improve health and care services. Its ambition is to address needs in Scotland and support companies to export proven technologies internationally, creating jobs and investment locally and helping other countries to solve similar health challenges.

One of DHI’s current projects uses the camera and technology from Microsoft’s Kinect motion controller for games consoles to detect patient vital signs remotely. The ability to assess heart rate and blood oxygen levels at a distance using facial recognition could reduce the need for clipped-on devices and allow for measuring multiple people at once in real-time. This would help clinicians and carers to identify priority cases quicker and carry out routine monitoring more efficiently. The system is being evaluated at Victoria Hospital in Fife, Scotland.


Huge potential

The Scottish Government’s National Clinical Strategy published earlier this year reported that current projections suggest that the population of Scotland will rise to 5.78 million by 2037, and that the population will age significantly, with the number of people aged 65 and over increasing by 59%, from 0.93 million to 1.47 million. The strategy sets out the demands that demographic changes will create, highlighting dementia and cancer as two key areas to be addressed through changes in the capacity and type of health and care services provided.

A Deloitte report for the UK Government found that the global market for digital health will be worth approximately £43 billion in 2018, with the UK accounting for around 7% of that. It also expects annual cumulative growth of 11%, driven mainly by markets such as mobile health and health analytics. Scotland is aiming to be a world leader in digital health and care with an estimated market value of up to £400 million by 2020.

Another innovation in progress is a smartphone app to improve detection of atrial fibrillation, one of the most common heart conditions in the UK, affecting around 1 million people, and a major risk factor for stroke. The AliveCor heart monitor Kardia allows cheaper and more convenient assessments compared with traditional electrocardiogram devices. The app is being evaluated in 24 general practice surgeries across Scotland.

Speaking of his new role, Murray said: “My partnership with the Digital Health & Care Institute has come about because I am really interested in how digital technologies can improve health. I obviously have a personal interest in that area because anything that can improve my own health will only improve my performance on court.  The work that DHI are doing is changing lives and solving some really important health and care challenges, at home and abroad, and I am proud to be supporting their work.”

Related reading