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Ushering in a more personalised healthcare system

Subhro Malik, Senior Vice President & Head Life Science, Infosys

Millions of users across England are using the NHS App to quickly access various digital services such as scheduling doctor appointments, checking their records, referring to repeat prescriptions etc. The UK government wants to extend the app’s usage with ambitious plans to enrich its features over the next couple of years, and eventually accelerate the digital revolution in healthcare. By March 2024, the government hopes to have at least 75% of the adult population relying on the app for a wide array of healthcare services.

These ambitions clearly indicate the growing acceptance of technology as an enabler of healthcare on a massive scale. In the modern context, public healthcare needs to be patient-centric, holistic, anytime and anywhere, and stakeholders are increasingly depending on technology to deliver at scale. Digital interventions can truly transform the way healthcare services are delivered and bring these in line with end-user expectations.

Technologies such as the Internet of things, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, blockchain, and wearables can enable remote monitoring, exchange, and capture of relevant patient information. Studies show that healthcare providers harnessing such technologies and digital solutions are better placed to improve patient outcomes. The use of data enables more accurate diagnoses, better decision-making, self-management, and personalization of care. Medical device companies are also adding value by embedding digital assistants and apps into their products to enable a more personalised user experience.

For example, patients ailing from cardiovascular diseases, diabetes mellitus, chronic pain, or spinal disorders are required to strictly following prescribed medication, exercise, and nutrition regimens to manage their condition. It calls for a high degree of health and nutrition literacy and support in tracking and monitoring regimens, while remaining mindful of ambiguities and consequences. Patients already grappling with chronic conditions often feel overwhelmed by the complexities involved. They tend to lean heavily on professional supervision and interventions, expecting support on-demand.

In such situations, digital health platforms can become their lifelines. By seamlessly integrating real-time data from medical devices, wearables, mobile apps as well as other digital devices, these platforms enable clinicians to remotely monitor each patient’s progress. Digital health platforms also aggregate and analyse data to produce insights tailored to help each patient. They focus on enabling self-management of chronic conditions, and forming positive habits, thus helping them work towards a better quality of life.

A host of digital tools such as virtual coaches and digital diaries are available today that make patient-centred care, a reality. Patients with chronic pain can record, monitor, and access their pain data, closely trace patterns. These insights that can inform and push them towards choosing a better diet, exercise routine, and lifestyle.

Patients want more accessibility to their healthcare provider and may require support anytime. However, this support can be hard to come by, especially at odd hours. On the other hand, one of the biggest advantages of virtual tools is that support is available anytime, anywhere. This makes them an ideal solution for patients with chronic pain to avail on-demand support. In the absence of a consistent in-person supervisor, they can use a virtual coach who remotely monitors and guides them through their medication and exercise regimens that are integral to pain management. They are also able to log their pain patterns, moods, sleep data, and activities and understand whether their coping strategies are effective or need improvement.

Undoubtedly, digital platforms are valuable in the management of patient care with their strong alignment to each patient’s expectation and needs of personalised care. They can play a key role in enabling easy access to reliable information, on-demand support, user-friendly navigation etc. There are challenges, however, that could derail the radical changes, which technology can bring to healthcare systems. For instance, research suggests that patients feel a natural reticence in sharing highly personal/confidential health data on an app or online tool. Patient sensitivities over data privacy and security breaches can override the advantages of any feature or functionality these apps promise.

After all, the success of personalised digital health systems depends on the extent to which patients can trust the healthcare provider with regards to: “Is my confidential data in safe hands? And is my care provider using the most relevant insights to deliver the care I need when it matters the most to me? Health care providers and medical device manufacturers investing in digital solutions need to address these concerns and plug systemic vulnerabilities, on priority. Some of the measures that have proved to be effective include implementing physical and digital access controls, electronic audit trails, and risk analyses. Of course, giving the patient the choice to share their personal information voluntarily and the choice to opt out is important too.

Ensuring the data safety and empowering patients with knowledge and choice will be key in shaping the future of digital healthcare.

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Lifestyle

Play, Learn, Grow: Why Playgrounds are Vital to Childhood Development

Between 2011 and 2023, public playground budgets fell by more than £350m. As a result, between 2013 and 2023, almost 800 public-use playgrounds across the UK closed, with budget constraints commonly cited as the driving force.

Although public-use playgrounds have suffered as a result of budgetary concerns, outdoor play remains vitally important to childhood development. This kind of play informs children about the world they live in, encourages social function and teaches valuable lessons about the environment.

Here, the educational play experts at Playdale take a look at the key role that playgrounds play in childhood development, and the lessons that our children can learn through considered playground design.

Why are playgrounds so important?

We cannot understate the impact of outdoor play on other aspects of children’s lives. 97% of teachers say that outdoor play is critical for children to reach their full potential. From boosting social skills to simply giving children an opportunity to let off steam, outdoor and adventurous play can reduce anxiety and depression among children.

With the recent worrying news that almost 70,000 children in the UK are suffering as a result of inadequate mental health support, adventurous play is more important than ever.

Outdoor play is also important when it comes to boosting children’s ability to carry out independent risk assessments. Lack of access to outdoor play means a growing number of children “reaching the end of their primary school years without having had enough opportunities to develop their ability to assess and manage risk independently,” says Helen Dodd, Professor of Child Psychology at the University of Exeter. Adventurous play helps children learn how to distinguish between safe risks and unsafe risks, teaching them independence as well as decision-making skills.

Dedicated outdoor play areas are therefore hugely important to childhood development. The design of these areas – and the acts of play they facilitate – are hugely important in teaching children important life lessons that they can carry forward.  

Being active

According to Save the Children UK, just one in four children play out on their street regularly, compared to three in four of their grandparents’ generation. Data shows that children are regularly chastised by parents or neighbours for being loud or excitable in the street, discouraging them from further outdoor play.

With this in mind, the importance of dedicated outdoor spaces is clear. Giving today’s youth a place to make noise, run, and be free is vital to uninhibited development. Every child has a right to play, according to the UN, and playgrounds teach children the value of being active in a space that’s safe and won’t cause disruption.

Social skills

Time spent at the playground gives children a chance to practice their social skills in a less-regulated environment than the classroom. This helps boost social skills such as listening and comprehension, reading social cues and even apologising to peers for mistakes.

Playground design can inform and facilitate social actions, too – communal equipment is important in encouraging children to come out of their shell and spend time together. One study noted how children interacted more with other children and less with their parents or supervisors with the introduction of certain playground equipment.

Barry Leahey MBE, President of Playdale Playgrounds, comments: “children learn that their actions have consequences – even if their parents or teachers might not be able to intervene right away. Understanding that fact helps children reinforce the good lessons they receive at home and school.”  

Inclusivity lessons

Through play, children at various ages have the opportunity to learn important lessons about inclusion and community. School and public playgrounds provide a space for children to interact independently with peers of different ability levels, increasing understanding and acceptance of children living with disabilities.

Considered, accessible playground design helps facilitate communal methods of play that bring children together. Inclusively designed playgrounds go above and beyond dedicated areas for wheelchair users, offering a range of different equipment that differently abled children can interact with in alternative ways.

49% of families with disabled children found that their local playground had some form of accessibility problem. But with 70% of disabled children in the UK using a public playground at least once a week, they’re key in helping to boost social skills and encourage interactions between children of all ability levels. Going forward, says Leahey, “accessible and inclusive playground design will help to teach understanding and consideration for the future generation of adults.”

Environmental lessons

Outdoor play offers children the chance to connect with nature and begin to better understand the world around them. “The play environment itself encourages and informs exactly how children see and interact with the immediate environment,” says Leahey.

There are plenty of factors that affect those interactions, from the area surrounding the park itself to the materials used in the park’s construction. Nature-themed interactions encourage childhood curiosity and an interest in the natural world. For example, woodland play areas do a great job of reinforcing the “natural” element of play.

“This is part of why material choices are so important,” comments Leahey. “Playgrounds should be visually and physically stimulating, but using more natural materials in construction can teach children about the importance of sustainability growing up.”

Lessons learned

The evidence indicates just how indispensable playgrounds are to childhood development – not merely from a play perspective, but in enhancing and enriching a child’s wider experience and interactions in an uninhibited environment in which they can be free.

The big picture indicates just how much of a problem the lack of funding for public-use playgrounds can pose. With less opportunities for children to socialise, understand their differences and the world around them, emotional and social development could become inhibited.

And, with less opportunities to be active, children’s health may continue to struggle. Though childhood obesity has slightly decreased between 2022 and 2023, levels have failed to drop below pre-pandemic levels, indicating the importance of dedicated play spaces for child health.

“So,” surmises Leahey, “we cannot understate the importance of outdoor play spaces. They teach our youth vital lessons, give them safe places to explore, exercise, laugh and more. If these budget cuts continue, our children will be missing out on an invaluable community resource.”

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Business

Three ways beauty and personal businesses can gain back lost revenue due to admin, ahead of summer

Attributed to: Samina Hussain-Letch, Executive Director, Square UK

The entrepreneurial beauty and personal care sector in Britain amounts to a whopping 36 billion pounds, but the pressure of manual labour endured by business owners is an obstacle for converting revenue and growth.

Our recent industry study highlights that nearly half (43%) of British barbers, spas, nail salons, personal trainers, tattoo parlours, and piercing studios are not using digital platforms or tools to automate bookings, ultimately losing over a full working day each week to administrative tasks alone. This equates to approximately two months lost per year, to manual admin tasks for beauty and personal care businesses.

We’ve listed three ways beauty and personal care businesses can gain back revenue ahead of summer:

  • Detoxing manual admin

Admin tasks are the equivalent to Pandora’s box for beauty and personal care businesses. The tasks may constitute using paper diaries to schedule appointments, manually rescheduling appointments, or taking bookings and sending reminders by message or phone call.

These seemingly minor chores can be a large time drain for businesses that rely on manual processes. The research found filing down time between client appointments to be one of the most difficult challenges, with 39% of the sector facing this over the last year, alone.

Businesses should identify how they could set timings to the specific duration of each service and still build in cleaning time after the appointment. Digital tools like an appointment booking software play a crucial role. By automating manual admin, owners can offer bookings with a wide booking window, allowing them to spend devoted time on each customer, resulting in the allowance to foster a loyal relationship that will keep them coming back, while giving their workforce time to clean up after the appointment.

  • Tapping into the power of technology

The solution here may sound simple, but business owners should again lean on technology to transform manual labour.

With time back, salons can give their workforce time to speak to customers on what other services they can offer to expand business offerings.

With the integration of tech tools for beauty and personal care businesses, nearly half (48%) of business owners would like staff to treat themselves to finishing work on time, while identifying new training for their team. Adopting a technology solution can unlock efficient management for businesses as appointments can be booked online and reminders can be sent using the software.

With the research showing that 42% of consumers want to book appointments on the weekend or after hours, working with the software promises ease for customers that are looking to make reservations after businesses are closed for the day.  But how can beauty and personal care business owners look to drive up their revenue when switching to an appointment software?

  • Driving up the revenue road

Our research also highlighted that only 1 in 5 of beauty and personal care businesses are automating marketing campaigns or inventory management. This sheds light that not all beauty and personal care businesses are optimising their toolset.

The time gained back from using automated appointment software allows businesses to think more strategically about marketing and pricing. Integration of an automated software readily links up with an online store that allows salons to not only manage inventory more effectively, but offer new products to clients on different channels of their choice.

With new offerings, businesses have extra opportunities and routes to drive up revenue. Selling products online is a sure-fire way of creating new business, as well as keeping their back end organised and offering consumers more options when it comes to buying products that are used within or after their appointment – as take home collateral.

Having an automated booking software for beauty and personal care businesses is a great way to unlock further revenue, train a workforce with time back, spend more time connecting with clientele and ensuring the business is driving bookings even while the salon is closed. It’s a win-win situation that will position businesses for success this year. Because as we all know, a business is only as successful as their customer satisfaction.

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Business

Revolutionizing Women’s Relationship with Power using Avatars

Dr. Debbie Bayntun-Lees – Professor of Organisational Development & Leadership at Hult International Business School

The complexity of leadership power dynamics

Leadership power is the influence that leaders exert over their followers, rallying support for their initiatives and securing compliance with their directives. The intricate interplay of leadership power dynamics holds profound implications for workplace culture, employee motivation, and overall performance.

Effective leadership requires not only acknowledging power but also employing it with care and thoughtfulness. Leaders who can master this delicate dance positively influence their employees and colleagues, contributing to the overall success of the organization. However, how leaders use power effectively is a complex matter, demanding a nuanced understanding of its implications.

The truth is that many women grapple with recognizing themselves as powerful leaders. Leadership is an art of influence, guiding individuals toward greater accomplishments through the effective use of power. Frequently, women tend to associate power with manipulation or control, leading them to distance themselves from that type of leadership. Instead, they often embrace terms like ‘effective’ and ‘influential.’

Power, in its essence, is neither inherently good nor bad—it is the manner in which power is wielded that determines its ethics and impact. Our research used avatars to dive into the crucial question of how women can cultivate a positive relationship with their own power.

So, can the medium of avatars in a VR environment help women learn to appreciate the value of relational power in the workplace?

Harnessing Avatars to Probe Power Dynamics

Participating in a Women’s Leadership Program, female leaders engaged in a virtual session, assuming the identity of avatars within a confidential virtual reality realm. Leveraging innovative virtual reality technology, they crafted personal scenarios and underwent a guided reflective process to explore and gain insights into their personal power and voice within their professional spheres.

Post-exercise, participants engaged in guided reflection, journaling, and shared their experiences within small breakout groups. The research collected data from 70 women through an online survey and in-depth exploration in seven online discussion groups, aiming to unravel the impact of this experiential learning on their perspectives and actions in the world.

Transformational Learning: Paving the Way for Positive Change

Respondents overwhelmingly acknowledged the value of the avatar session in providing a dedicated space for reflection and in-depth analysis of work-related challenges. In particular they reported that the experience was beneficial when it came to:

  • Shifting perceptions of power: Avatars can serve as catalysts for shifting perspectives and instigating behavioral changes concerning how women perceive and wield power in the workplace. This immersive experience allowed leaders to gain a multidimensional understanding of their power, prompting a reframing of their view of ‘power’ in a more positive light.
  • Elevating Self-Awareness. The amalgamation of survey and focus group data underscored heightened levels of self-awareness among participants. This increased awareness of personal responsibilities for workplace challenges empowered these leaders to generate solutions and make tangible progress in their respective professional spheres. As one participant put it: “I feel more empowered…I was not aware that others may perceive me as a threat to them, or maybe a bit afraid of me (someone told me this). So yes, I feel empowered, but I also have to be aware of their and my position, I do not want to endanger them, so I must pay attention to how I behave and use my power”.
  • Heightening Empathy: The study’s findings suggested that virtual worlds, particularly those using avatars, effectively foster empathy and perspective-taking skills. Avatars in the ProReal virtual landscape empowered participants to recreate work situations, enabling guided exploration and encouraging the examination of challenges from diverse perspectives.  

The outcome was an increase in empathy, with participants expressing a deeper understanding of their team’s dynamics and challenges. One participant relayed how seeing things through other people’s eyes has made her more empathetic with her team: “It can be frustrating when people in my team are not achieving the dates we have set for example, for delivering a report. Then I am trying to guess what has been happening this week and so on. I would often imagine there is no explanation…so there was no empathy. Now I find out and try to see all the things that are going on, and if they have all the information they need.”                         

Avatars – an innovative medium for organizations

Our research not only affirms the potential of avatars in virtual reality as a tool for learning but also positions them as an innovative medium for female leaders.

This platform provides a unique opportunity for women to gain a nuanced understanding of their power dynamics and navigate the delicate balance between power and effective leadership.

Consequently, it make sense for organizations to create strategic opportunities for all leaders – but in particular women – to refine their power dynamics, harnessing the opportunities afforded by these kinds of technologies.

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