Impact of IP telephony on UK telecare systems

The Telecare Services Association (TSA) in the UK has recently released a white paper addressing the impact of a fundamental change to the [grow_thumb image=”http://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/connecting-people-saving-lives.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]UK Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) that is now being contemplated. This change will eventually see the replacement of the current PSTN and Integrated Services Digital Network landline networks with IP telephony (the type of phone connectivity that has been commonly used in most modern office environments for some years).

Two years ago BT, who essentially owns practically the whole of the UK PSTN, proposed that the change of their network would be completed in 2025.

This has an impact on the telecare services to the extent that many telecare alarm devices in use connect to the call centres via the PSTN and hence such devices and/or the infrastructure used by suppliers of such services will need to be upgraded when the underlying network is changed. There are, according to the TSA paper, 1.7 million users of such devices in the UK.

The TSA is essentially the UK industry body for telecare and telehealth and as such it is understandably trying to raise awareness of the need for both the commissioners and suppliers of these services to prepare for the change. This paper is said to be a result of gathering views from “key stakeholders” related to this change.

The potential impact, however, seems to be somewhat exaggerated. It should be remembered that the UK very successfully underwent another major switch-over not that long ago in 2012 – from analogue to digital TV. It required every analogue TV in the country to be either fitted with a set top box or replaced with a digital TV.

TSA also suggest that this changeover be used as an opportunity to roll out more internet based digital health functionality to end users. Of course, such functionality is already widely appearing in the form of health monitors, exercise and medication reminders etc. and are not dependent on the switch over. So it is unfortunate that the paper flips between the two topics and asserts a dependence of internet based digital services on the PSTN switch-over.

The document feels more like marketing material than a white paper with about 1/3 of it taken up by irrelevant photographs of random happy smiling or laughing (mostly older) people. It reminded me of some of the material that came out the the 3 Million Lives project. If only our elderly people living alone or in our care homes were as happy as this!

The paper is available to download here.