Help at Hand, the mobile telecare service that O2 is set to launch in the UK later this month, is destined for a wider rollout within the Telefonica group, according to Keith Nurcombe, head of O2 Health in the UK. “It will undoubtedly travel to other countries within the Telefonica footprint,” said Nurcombe in an interview with Mobile Health Live.
Help at Hand is a telecare service aimed at elderly or other vulnerable people who need monitoring in the home in case of an emergency. In the UK O2 says the target market is mental health patients. It is offering the service to NHS Trusts and the social service departments of local authorities.
Nurcombe did not say which other markets within the Telefonica group would launch Help at Hand but did mention the three which have most enthusiastically embraced healthcare to date (along with the UK). They are Spain, Brazil and Chile.
O2 launched its health unit in July 2010. Telecare is one of four segments it currently targets for its healthcare strategy. Of the remaining three, one is termed by Nurcombe as “efficiency propositions” for NHS or private healthcare providers. These servcies include offering access to patient health records on the move, scheduling appointments for health workers in the field and SMS appointment reminders for patients. O2 has already launched services in this area.
The third segment is telehealth which is a more complex service than telecare although with similarities. Telehealth involves remote monitoring of patients with long-term conditions such as diabetes and then analysing their data rather than responding to a patient sounding an alarm. Remote monitoring is a service that O2 is currently trialling in the UK and plans to launch in 2013. The fourth segment served by O2 Health is providing mobile phones to healthcare institutions such as hospitals as an enterprize market.
In terms of Help at Hand’s target market, O2 is aiming the service at NHS Trusts (particularly those with a mental health focus) and local authorities. There are currently 1.7 million fixed telecare users in the UK with the bulk (90-95 percent) paid for by local authorities. O2 wants to persuade local authorities to shift from fixed to mobile connections with the lure of additional functionality as the prime argument (rather than cost saving). NHS Trusts do not currently offer telecare service for mental health patients so they would adopt Help at Hand as a new service rather than as a replacement.