NHS Somerset (in South-West England) is planning to monitor the symptoms of 4 000 people living with long-term conditions over the next three years (2012-2015), using a mobile healthcare system.
The programme will focus on people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart disease, and diabetes. The mobile healthcare system, which was developed by a consultant surgeon, David Morgan, works by providing patients with a touch-screen mobile phone-style device, which is programmed with personalised care plans from its web-based application software.
The system prompts patients to complete questionnaires and capture relevant vital signs, using connected mobile devices. Responses are sent to triage management software that analyses the results and sends an automatic alert to a nurse or doctor if they indicate cause for concern. Clinical staff can then advise patients on any action they should take. The system was piloted by NHS South Birmingham and has already been used by NHS Bristol.
Mark Doorbar, chief executive of the supplier company, said: "The simplicity of the […] system is a key strength. It is quick and easy for healthcare professionals to ‘prescribe’ individual care plans from the system’s web-based triage management software that are then instantly uploaded to the touch-screen mobile device.” He added: "Patients like the fact the device is mobile and easy to use. It has multiple language options and easy-to-follow voice instructions to make it accessible to people of all ages and ethnicities: in fact, the average age of current users is 76."
The government is now promoting telehealth and telecare as a way for clinical commissioning groups to cope with an aging population living with a growing burden of chronic disease. It is running a 3millionlives campaign with a number of industry bodies to stimulate the market over the next five years. However, there is concern that the full results of the whole system demonstrators have still not been published. A number of other telehealth programmes have also experienced problems in recruiting patients.