Key to the take-up of remote monitoring services, at least from a commercial point of view, is the extent to which they reduce costly hospital admissions for home-based patients. If mobile operator's monitoring services head off emergencies among patients by spotting them early enough, they represent an attractive investment for healthcare providers.
However imagine a scenario where remote monitoring schemes really take off in popularity in a country such as the UK. Bear in mind, the UK government is sold on remote monitoring so it's not an impossible scenario. It recently unveiled its Three Million Lives campaign that will target the same number of people who could benefit from having remote monitoring equipment installed in their homes. Could mobile operators realistically handle that volume of data or would they struggle under such a burden?
I recently raised this subject with Keith Nurcombe, head of O2 Health in the UK. His response: Monitoring is only for adverse events so does not require constant human supervision. “It's not someone at a screen watching every single result because as you rightly point out the logistics would be phenomenal”. In fact human intervention is only required to deal with “an adverse exception”. Such exceptions represent “a much smaller number of triggers”, he says.
Nurcombe then referenced O2’s Help at Hand service in the UK. He terms it a telecare service as distinct from what he classifies as telehealth (ie remote monitoring) services. Help at Hand offers a service whereby an alarm is triggered in the event of a patient having an accident. By comparison remote monitoring services involves a more constant and hence more data-intensive services.
Still Help at Hand provides a useful illustration even though the service only became commercially available at the start of this month (April 2012). Nurcombe says the service is only likely to have a maximum of one percent to two percent of users activating an alarm in a single day. Of course reality could be different but this at least offers a benchmark from which to work. Help at Hand was announced in early March but only became available at the start of April when a GPRS-enabled pendant and wristwatch for users came onto the market.
So far O2 has not announced the names of any commercial customers for Help at Hand although it has told Mobile Health Live it has attracted three customers to date. Previously it mentioned that two UK health bodies – Devon Partnership NHS Trust and Leeds City Council – trialled the service last year. Of course real proof of such services only come through commercial deployments. And the critical role of evidence generation (particularly the kind of evidence that proves cost savings) is the theme of our forthcoming seminar later this month, register here.
The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.