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MIT Professor and data guru Alex “Sandy” Pentland discusses the impact of using mobile technology to help people monitor their health

MIT Professor and data guru Alex “Sandy” Pentland has addressed the issue of using data to change personal behaviour and, ultimately to improve health and reduce healthcare costs.

With the NHS funding gap set to reach £30billion by 2020 and with only 4%* of NHS budget invested in preventative healthcare*, digital innovation should be seen as an essential investment to combat the challenges outlined in the NHS Five Year Forward Plan.

“Most of healthcare cost is dealing with people who are really sick” said Pentland. “If you could do continuous monitoring of yourself and know when you are getting sick and get help immediately, the costs are dramatically lower and the outcomes dramatically better.”

Last month, global healthcare leader MSD (Merck Sharp & Dohme) Ltd and Wayra, Telefonica’s tech start up accelerator announced a partnership to launch the first preventative healthcare start-up programme in the UK. The acceleration programme, called Velocity Health, kicked off the search for the UK’s best tech start-ups to win the chance to have their innovations developed and their ideas brought to market to deliver early health detection of diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, obesity and diabetes. From intelligent glasses for the visually impaired, to phone apps identifying possible melanoma, Velocity Health are hoping to add to the 100 UK tech start-ups already being supported by Wayra in 2015.

The UK government’s commitment to a digital health agenda will hopefully continue to drive accelerator programmes like Velocity Health as the industry searches for best tech innovation to help identify and prevent the rise of major diseases amongst an ageing population in the UK.

Citing Velocity Health as an example of the kind initiative that can make a difference, Prof Pentland emphasised the importance of developing mobile technology for prevention saying: “Just as they say behaviour is the biggest cause of disease, knowing your behaviour gives you the biggest hope of changing that.”