International Yoga Day 2016 -quietening your mind and improving your physical and mental health

Today, June 21st 2016, is International Yoga Day. Big deal you may say, why should that make any difference to you, your family, your team or your business?  Well if you take a few minutes to read some of the growing body of evidence of the benefits of yoga perhaps it can help you make very positive impacts on all of these areas in your life.

Firstly let’s kick some of the preconceptions of yoga into touch … yoga is not about being  the bendiest or stretchiest in a class ; it is not only for super fit individuals in sprayed on lycra who can manoeuvre and contort their body into positions others may only dream of or pay to see in adult rated films ; you don’t need to be a muesli eating, practical sandal wearing, single person of a certain age ; and most importantly of all, you don’t need to be able to touch your toes to practice yoga. So pushing these stereotypes firmly aside, what is yoga and what benefits could it bring.

At the simplest level, I was taught that yoga is about calming the mind and through this process becoming open to experiencing our true self – this is achieved through breathing (pranayama), meditation (dhyana), exercise (asanas), diet (sattvic) and relaxation (shavasana). Now if I have nearly lost you at this stage, and I know you have limited time,  let’s pull you back in with the article below that was published by Greg McKeown in the Harvard Business Review in October 2014 where a Microsoft Exec found over a period of time that using a number of tools helped reduce his stress and longer term proved life changing for him.

Today, on International Yoga Day 2016, why not try your initial introduction to yoga  through breathing ? No muesli, lycra or gym membership needed and certainly no toe touching required – see if this helps you to feel calmer and more engaged and if it does then tomorrow try if for longer. As you progress and feel the benefits then perhaps introduce it to your team, family and friends. If like me, you embrace new  technologies as you strive for health and wellness, then a great free app to help you on your breathing journey is the biobeats “Hear and Now” app. This app, based on clinically validated stress-reducing and mindfulness practices, will remind you to breathe and guide you through the process, showing you how your heart responds to deep, focused breathing using just your mobile device.

Wishing you a more enlightened introduction to yoga, happy breathing and Namaste






What does digitial technology mean for our healthcare?

This week saw a number of great speakers, panel discussions and product presentations at the Wearable Technology Show 2016 in London. Whilst we are hearing and seeing more about Digital Technology, how could it change healthcare as we know it today?

For me, the following article by Dr Roger Henderson, encapsulates (no pun intended) the direction we are moving in at a pace. Exciting times ahead and the requirements for new knowledge, skills and collaborative working practices is here already. Is your business resourced to deliver in this new world?

Not everyone may have noticed, but we are living in a period of revolution — and it eclipses the industrial one of the 18th century by a factor of about ten. Technology is evolving at breakneck speed and what is happening right now is likely to be obsolete by the next decade. Think back 20 years and you can see what I mean — I was carrying a radio telephone on home visits that was the size of a car battery and writing all my notes on paper in longhand in 1996. Today all my work is web-based and health technology has finally caught up with the explosion in processing power available on a microchip.

Digital technology in healthcare is the new buzzword. But what does this actually mean in practice? Well, there are a handful of examples which show the brave new world that medicine is being steered into.

The smartphone. Perhaps the most obvious example. The computing power in our pockets could put man back on the moon. Two thirds of us use smartphones to access the internet, and thousands of health apps are downloaded every day. However, their potential has still not really been tapped, and in the coming years we will see them being increasingly used as patients demand easier access to medical care services via their smartphones. This will typically be in arranging appointments, ordering prescriptions or talking to their GP via video consultations. With the current political drive towards a full-time, seven-day, routine NHS availability, remote appointments will become increasingly common via phones, tablets and computers (for instance, here).

Networked medical devices. There are currently four main categories in use, all relying on quality wireless networks to function effectively. These include wearable external medical devices (such as portable insulin pumps) that communicate wirelessly with central hubs; consumer health-based products such as Fitbits that use Bluetooth to communicate with personal devices; internally embedded devices (such as pacemakers) that ‘speak’ wirelessly to doctors, and stationary medical devices such as home-care cardiac monitoring for bed-bound patients. Their usage remains in its infancy but is likely to expand dramatically.

Smart pills. With up to half of all medication prescribed to people with long-term conditions not being taken as recommended, technology is now available to help promote better compliance and treatment adherence. ‘Sensor pills’ are a good example. Micro-technology now means that sensors can be swallowed in pill form, which — when dissolved in the stomach — are activated. Data is then transmitted to a wearable patch on the outside of the body and on to a smartphone app, enabling both clinician and patient to see how good compliance is.

One drug delivery system currently under development (which sounds like it is off the set of Star Trek but in reality is almost ready for use) aims to use an implantable device containing tiny, sealable drug reservoirs that open when triggered by a small electric current controlled by an embedded microchip. Doses of drugs could be released automatically for a decade from a single chip — think contraception or psychiatric drugs and you can see the potential here.

Genome sequencing. This is the motherlode. As we further advance genome (DNA) sequencing we bring a better understanding of not only how disease affects different individuals, but also how that individual may respond to certain drug treatments (pharmacogenomics). On the back of this, potentially curative treatment for illnesses such as cancer or inherited conditions becomes a possibility and, although this is probably at least a decade away, we can reasonably look forward to our children having access to individualised treatments linked to their genome in the future. The cost of sequencing a single person’s genome continues to rapidly fall to a point where cost is not the major factor in its use.

In theory, all would seem lovely and shiny in the digital health world, where doctors can improve the accuracy and usefulness of information gathered on a patient’s health, where new ways of predicting and treating illness are appearing and where we can change both where and how healthcare is delivered.

However, the NHS is notoriously slow to adapt to technology (hospital letters are still sent to me by fax rather than email). Unless the benefits are dispensed universally, then access to digital healthcare services will be subject to a postcode lottery, with all the frustration and unfairness that this brings with it.

The NHS also shows little evidence of being able to deal with the huge volume of health information that new technologies generate, and until it does so, the prospect of using available real-world technology to improve the health of my patients remains frustratingly just out of reach. And it’s there, waiting for us.