Overcoming Hutber’s Law

Hutber’s law* states that progress doesn’t necessarily mean improvement and indeed means deterioration. How often is this proved correct? We can all cite an example when a perceived advance or change in the name of progress has not brought about improvement, especially to quality of life.
One of the interesting parts of my job working in strategy is looking at how future progress and change is going to bring improvements, either to our customers or our bottom line, the ideal solution is when both the customer experience and the bottom line is improved. Recently I have been taking a look at future innovations and technology changes in the mobile industry and in the wider industry.

Last week as part of this, I had the opportunity to visit the BT innovation centre at their research labs in Ipswich where they collect, investigate and promote innovation in technology.

Amongst the innovations on display was 4K TV with actual 4K content, being the proud owner of a 15 year old Sony CRT, the difference in quality and picture depth was impressive.  A word of warning though, make sure when the time comes you have the right cables……

Also there was a demonstration of the Double Robotics iPad based TeleCommuter, enabling a remote user to power and move the iPad on a segway around the room.  (not sure how it opens doors though!)

Whilst Britons are well rehearsed in queuing , the Q Less demo @ BT innovation centre showed a way of making that experience a less time consuming activity.

However for me and of particular interest in how technology and innovation can make a difference for good was in the area of Telehealth & Telecare, represented by the graphic below courtesy of ecnmag.com .

Basic Telehealth, Copyright – ecnmag.com


Telecare is defined by the UK Department of Health as Personal and Environmental Sensors in the home that enable people to remain safe and independent in their own home for longer.

Telehealth on the other hand is slightly different and is defined as Electronic sensor or equipment that monitors vital health signs remotely for example, in ones home or on the move.  These readings are automatically transmitted to an appropriately trained professional who can monitor the results and make decisions about potential interventions in real time without the patient needing to attend a clinic.

Whilst only a few years old in the development of these services,  this sort of technology has made its way into healthcare across the world and the expansion of mobile connectivity is enabling this reality particularly in the telehealth sector.   In the UK it is estimated that 1.8 million people already make use of telecare or telehealth services and that number is expected to grow as the services mature.  A study in 2012 indicated that up to 3million people in the UK along could benefit from telehealth type services.

In November 2013 the UK government published a department of health brochure on digital health pointing towards the growth expected and the positive results experienced to date.   A copy can be downloaded here (requires Adobe Reader).

So perhaps not all improvement hids a deterioation and hopefully Patrick Hutber isn’t correct in all instances.

*Patrick Hutber, economist and journalist, was city editor for the Sunday Telegraph from 1966 to 1979.  He coined the phase “improvement means deterioration” – an observation that a stated improvement actually hides a deterioration.


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