Matt Hancock touts digital tech in the NHS as key to fuelling preventative healthcare

The health and social care secretary wants to invest more money in innovative tech for detecting disease early

Health and social care secretary Matt Hancock believes the key to lessening the burden on the NHS is investing in technologies to help prevent diseases.

Hancock told attendees at the Annual Meeting of the International Association of National Public Health Institutes today that helping people manage their own illnesses by identifying them earlier will lower the strain on the public purse.

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"This isn't just about empowering people to take more personal responsibility. It's about reforming the system and harnessing new opportunities," Hancock said. "There are two new technologies in particular with the potential to change everything: the combination of artificial intelligence and genomics. They promise the potential to unlock our genetic codes, and allow us to apply those codes to how we live our lives."

He added that the ability to predict who is susceptible to which diseases and diagnose people who are already ill faster means medical professionals can offer treatment before it gets too serious.

Hancock also stated that AI will allow healthcare to become personalised, with tailored treatments for each patient, helping bring them back to health faster and before their conditions deteriorate. Identifying illnesses sooner means resources will be available for those that need acute care instead.

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Hancock's speech introduced the government's policy document that sets out how the NHS will use technology to transform medicine.

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"Predictive prevention will transform public health by harnessing digital technology and personal data appropriately safeguarded to prevent people becoming patients," the policy paper said. "The availability of public data, combined with the existing understanding of wider determinants of health, means we can use digital tools to better identify risks and then help the behaviours of people most in need before they become patients.

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