Telemedicine device wins Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation

A telemedicine invention called Cardio Pad developed by an engineer from Cameroon has been selected as the winning entry for click to enlargethe 2016 Africa Prize for Engineering Innovation, according to news reports  (BBC, Forbes, TechTrends, Business in Cameroon).

The winner, 24-year-old Arthur Zang (pictured with a Cardio Pad), who won the £25,000 ($37,000) on offer from the Royal Academy of Engineering in the UK,  was awarded his prize at a ceremony in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, on the 26th of May, 2016. Zang previously won a Rolex Award for Enterprise in 2014 for the device. (more…)

Australia: Most of the benefit of NBN comes from Telehealth and Teleworking

A study has concluded that most of the benefit from the National Broadband Network in Australia comes from two sources, telehealth and teleworking. Economic Benefit of the National Broadband Network (NBN) is a report partially summarising a study by the Centre for Energy Efficient Telecommunications (CEET) at the University of Melbourne. The study analyses the potential economic impact of Australia’s NBN.

Assuming that eventual access speeds will reach 10-25 Mbps, the model used by CEET predicts long-term GDP increase of 1.8% and a 2% increase in real-term household consumption. Of six categories of services considered, cloud computing, e-commerce, online higher education, telehealth, teleworking and entertainment, it is telehealth and teleworking that have come up as the services that will generate the most benefit from the NBN.

The average annual household benefit is estimated to be around $3,800 by 2020. Recognising the significant investment being made in broadband in Australia, the paper attempts to describe how the NBN will influence the national economy through the adoption of new services and new ways of working.

The short summary report is in easily accessible language and well presented and is available here.

Insurer launches telemedicine for Australian travelers

An Australian health insurance underwriter has announced that it is offering a telemedicine service for its traveling and expatriate policyholders, according to today’s Insurance Business. click to enlarge Accident and Health International (AHI) is offering access to Australian-trained emergency physicians via video, phone call, email or text 24 hours a day for these customers.

The service is being offered through Docto, which describes itself as “Australia’s first on-line telemedicine hospital”. CEO of AHI, Peter Banks, is reported to have said “the policy holder simply clicks a button on the AHI App or the Docto website and they can see a doctor from the comfort of their home or hotel room. Often when you are travelling in an unfamiliar place, it is the simple questions you want answers to. They can simply text, email, video or voice call AHI’s TeleHealth for an immediate answer.”

Dr John Field, founder of Docto, offers another scenario: “it is preventing a mother from having to go to a foreign hospital in the middle of the night with sick kids. She can press a button and see a doctor in real time, without leaving the house.” Docto website claims that its “Emergency Department” is staffed 24-hours a day by fully trained Australian Emergency Physicians. Access to medical specialist covering a wide range of areas are arranged via Telemedicine consultations on the next business day.

If the traveler requires repatriation back to Australia that is arranged via Dynamiq, a global emergency management company.

Telehealth in the ME – report from The Economist

It is rare to hear about telehealth from the Middle East, so it is refreshing to see a report dedicated to this subject. click to enlargeEnabling Telehealth: Lessons for the Gulf” is a new report from the Intelligence Unit of The Economist which identifies principles and practices relevant to the Gulf Cooperation
Council (GCC) region. GCC is a regional intergovernmental political and economic union consisting of all Arab states in the Persian Gulf except for Iraq – i.e. Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and UAE.

The report has been commissioned by Philips and studies the environment in which telehealth operates – the policies, infrastructure, associated skills and institutional users. The Economist interviewed several experts for this report: the director of the Center for Connected Health Policy, associate Dean of the Mayo Clinic’s Center  for Connected Care, chief medical officer of the European Health Telematics Association, a senior lecturer in professional healthcare education at the Open University and CEO of the International Alliance of Patients’ Organisations.

As the report points out in its summary, “… access to telehealth depends not only on telehealth technology. Policy frameworks must be modernised, communications infrastructures such as broadband and mobile network coverage must be improved, and skillsets – both of clinicians and patients – need to be strengthened.

Five key findings in the report are

  • Ensuring access to telehealth depends not just on the technologies, but on the broader enabling environment, especially policy harmonisation, communications infrastructure, and skills.
  • Governments should consider more efficient licensing if telehealth is to enable patients to access medical expertise outside of their state, province or country. Here it cites the examples of USA and Europe. The state by state licensing in the US is a barrier to telehealth and the cross-state harmonisation in the EU helps telehealth.
  • Telehealth provision must go hand-in-hand with Internet infrastructure rollout, since vulnerable populations are the lowest users of the Internet.
  • Focus on systems integration: “… build usable systems with the requisite security and privacy” which “work seamlessly with those already in place”.
  • Health providers may need support in working with new technologiesThe full report is available to download here.

Telemedicine coordinators help improve user numbers in Queensland

The demand for telemedicine services in south western Queensland is reported to have tripled from 8 consultations a month click to enlargeto about 35-40 following the appointment of coordinators who show patients how to use the service. The Queensland Government media statement issued last week quotes the coordinator at Charleville Hospital as saying 99% of people prefer the service to traveling to see a specialist face to face.

The video link service connects doctors with patients from 2 rural hospitals and one district hospital in south west Queensland. These are relatively small hospitals with 24 to 39 beds and use Flying Doctors to provide some of the facilities such as surgery. Alternative for patients, say in Charleville, could be a 7 hr 620 km drive to Toowoomba or a 8 1/2 hour 750km drive to Brisbane to see a specialist for a 10 minute appointment.

Telstra has spent $100M on telehealth

Telstra Health has splashed out $100 million buying up other telehealth companies, it was revealed at a recent conference. Bronwyn Pike, former Minister of Health in Victoria and now Community Care Lead at Telstra Health, addressing the 13th National Rural Health Conferenceclick to enlarge held in Darwin from May 24th to 27th, described how Telstra Health wants to transform rural health in Australia.

“Increasing demand, rising costs and more people with chronic illness are among the challenges Australia’s health care industry is facing. Working harder can only go so far — we need to reimagine what the future could look like”, Pike wrote in her abstract.

“Helping users to do more for themselves has been a key feature of almost every other industry change of the last decade. Banking is a perfect example — where once every single interaction required your physical presence in front of a teller, now you can manage almost every aspect of your banking needs securely online.

“Health is caught in a model that is inconvenient for patients and labour intensive for health care providers. We need to tailor the model to suit the health industry and capitalise on the benefits connection can provide. Those living in rural and remote communities without regular access to all levels of care stand to benefit enormously if we can unlock the potential of ehealth”

Two telemedicine clinics open in Kenya

Two telemedicine clinics have been opened in Nairobi and click to enlargeMachakos, 63 km from Nairobi, in Kenya, according to a report in HIT Consultant. The clinics, based at the Kenyatta National Hospital in Nairobi and the Machakos Level 5 Hospital in Machakos, will provide patients in remote areas the ability to consult cancer specialists at the Kenyatta Hospital using video conferencing.

Both hospitals are state run hospitals and the telemedicine service is being funded by Merck, the international pharmaceutical company.

Merck recently acquired remote cardiac monitoring company eCardio shortly before eCardio merged with remote monitoring device maker Preventice. Previously we reported that Merck invested heavily in WellDoc when WellDoc raised $20m of funding.

Read more about the Merck project in Kenya here.

Health funding cuts in Australia

Health and science funding in Australia are facing huge cutbacks under the new Government click to enlargeof Prime Minister Tony Abbott leading to expectations that the existing telehealth programmes will be reduced or abandoned as a direct result. A raft of cuts include closure of health and science agencies, funding cuts to major research institutes and the introduction of co-payment for each GP visit.

The Guardian reported that a cut of $1.8 billion of planned health payments to the States will take place over the next four years and The Lancet reports that the government’s share of the health service funding will be cut by $15 billion per year by 2024. The treasurer for New South Wales has stated that NSW itself would need to find an extra $1.2 bn over the next four years. ABC reported yesterday that the South Australian Government is planning to shut hundreds of hospital beds in next month’s budget in what will be the largest cut in its history.

Where will this leave the Australian telehealth and telecare services which have been showing rapid take-up in the recent past, helped along by several far-sighted Government initiatives such as Medicare Locals and telehealth pilots? And what impact will there be on the recent One in Four Lives industry initiative?

 

Excellent new report on using digital tech in health

An excellent new report is out now on the use of digital technologies in health systems covering all the click to enlargekey areas of application. A digitally-enabled health system studies the Australian health system and how it is to be improved by the use of various digital technologies.

Published by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Australia’s national science agency, this is a well researched and written report with the underlying analysis applicable to most countries, not just Australia. With contributions from eight experts, and presented in clear language, this is well worth a read. A free download of the report and links to infographics are available on the CSIRO report page.

Australia, in common with many other countries, faces pressures on its health system: “Treasury estimates suggest that at current rates of growth, and without significant change, health expenditure will exceed the entire state and local government tax base by 2043, and require almost half of all government taxation revenue” says Sarah Dods in the introduction to the report. CSIRO suggests several developments to meet this challenge – no surprises here, but nevertheless useful to remind ourselves of these: reduce reliance on hospitals, better manage hospital resources, make in-home patient monitoring (telehealth) the norm and introduce rigorous data security and privacy.

On hospital admissions there is a discussion on managing CSIRO logoEmergency Departments and re-routing ambulances to hospitals with shorter queues, a practice that is already taking place in some parts of the country. There is a section on the use of RFID tags to manage both equipment and continuity of care in hospitals. Another section looks at telehealth and self-monitoring. Other sections look at video conferencing (“tele-presence”) and remote diagnosis.

Pilot testing of telehealth service in Philippines

Filipino company Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPIC) plans to offer telehealth services in its hospitals allowing Filipinos in remote areas to avail themselves of healthcare services, reports Interaksyon, the online news portal of the Philippines TV network TV5.

In a briefing last week MPIC Hospital Group president Augusto Palisoc has said it is piloting a telehealth service involving two machines located in company-owned Asian Hospital and another in a government hospital in Batangas. This will allow patients in remote areas — with the assistance of a professional with medical training — to seek diagnosis or the advice of doctors in a base hospital, the article says.

Metro Pacific’s planned venture into telehealth is part of its efforts to look at other healthcare delivery processes in addition to its regular hospital investments. MPIC operates the largest private hospital group in the country with approximately 2,150 beds. Its network includes the Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Asian Hospital & Medical Center, De Los Santos Medical Center, Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital in Tarlac, Riverside Medical Center in the Visayas and Davao Doctors Hospital in Mindanao.

Vodafone and AstraZeneca sign global m-health partnership

Vodafone has signed a global partnership with AstraZeneca in order to develop m-health services to improve the outcome for patients with cardiovascular conditions. The collaboration will create new mobile and internet-based services to support patients through their treatment journey, improving medication adherence and giving patients confidence to manage their condition more effectively, according to the press release.

AstraZeneca’s Intelligent Pharmaceutical Group will lead the project with Vodafone charged with providing the technology, infrastructure and expertise for the new services.

The UK-based operator said it will also look to capture data from a variety of sources to improve overall engagement between patients and healthcare professionals. All the new services will be designed to work across geographies.

“Bringing together the best in connectivity with the best in treatment and education will create powerful and compelling outcomes for patients,” according to a comment attributed to Vodafone M2M Director Erik Brennais. But there is little in the way of details of what the two companies may develop or the timescales.

Doro opens first store, in Paris

Swedish firm Doro, best known for its easy-to-use mobile phones has announced the opening of its first click to enlargestore. The company, which bought the small French telecare technology provider Birdy Technology in 2011, says that the store, in Paris, will enable them to “get closer to the end user”.

Doro say in their press release that the store will enable them to show the full range of their offerings which are listed as smart devices, mobile phones and telecare solutions. The Birdy Box telecare hub, from their acquisition of Birdy Technology, has now been fully rebranded as Doro Gateway, part of the Doro Care offering. In addition, according to a quote from CEO Jérôme Arnaud, the store will enable Doro to increase its direct sales.

“The store in Paris will be followed by a gradual launch of Doro’s own e-commerce, planned to be introduced in several key markets during 2014” concludes the release, but no information is available as to what Doro plans to offer in the e-commerce arena.

New industry group promoting telehealth in Australia

A new group of industry stakeholders is asking the Australian Federal Government to adopt telehealth as a means to cut the growing national health budget. A whitepaper from the group was presented in Canberra on Wednesday to MP Steve Irons, chair of the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health by George Margelis (who has previously contributed here at TTA) representing MPT Innnovation Group.

Members of the One in Four Lives group include the Australian Information Industry Association (AIIC), BT Australasia, Anywhere Healthcare, Philips, MPT Innovation Group and the University of Western Sydney (according to Pulse IT) and is chaired by Lisa Altman, Health Practice Director at BT Australasia (part of BT Global Services). The name One in Four Lives reflects that 25% of Australians have chronic health conditions.

Australia has widespread use of telehealth as the many news items we have reported bear out. However majority of these are video link type schemes and the new group is advocating greater use of more sophisticated telehealth schemes using home-based connected sensors and dedicated monitoring clinicians.

If, like me, you thought One in Four Lives sounded familiar, that is probably because the words “Three Million Lives” may have flashed through your mind. Three Million Lives, or 3ML, is a programme that was launched by the UK Goverment in 2011 to get that many people using telehealth. Just to complete the comparison, BT also happens to be the lead company in 3ML.

See also Australian Aging Agenda

Telehealth awareness week in SW Victoria (Australia)

Barwon South West is one of five regions in the most densely populated state in Australia, Victoria. click to enlargeStarting on Monday 17th March Barwon South West is holding a week of telehealth awareness activities to coincide with the Australian Telehealth Conference 2014 (ATC2014).

Organised by Barwon Health, the Telehealth Awareness Week 2014 (THAW2014)  will consist of thirteen face-to-face and online events spread across the week, but excluding the two days of the ATC2014 conference.

Rebecca Eastgate, Regional Telehealth Program Manager for Barwon Health tells me that their week of activities including the webinars, “are probably too specific to our region and our local audience to be useful to those beyond Australian shores”. However if you are reading this in Australia, then you may want to look up the THAW2014 events list on Eventbrite and register for any of the meetings or Webinars that are of interest.

Inquiry into telehealth services in Queensland

“A statewide healthcare system with new capacity, co-operation, transparent reporting systems, click to enlargefinancial accountability and with patients the focus of attention—this is a vision all Queenslanders want to see.” So opened the message from Campbell Newman, Premier of Queensland, Australia, in Blueprint for better healthcare in Queensland in February last year. Turning to telehealth Mr Newman said “In remote communities, this government will work to provide 24-hour access to safe and sustainable care through a revised network of Telehealth facilities for the very first time. This is a 21st century solution to a problem long-regarded as impossible. Our plan will provide reliable health services in places where they were never previously available.”

A year on, the Health and Community Services Committee of the Queensland Parliament has opened an inquiry into telehealth services in the public sector health services in Queensland. The inquiry will consider the implementation of telehealth by the Department of Health and Hospital and Health Services, including the Rural Telehealth Service that was announced in the Blueprint for better healthcare in Queensland.

The committee will examine trials, pilots and other sites, consider the value for money of the delivery of telehealth services, examine the factors that support successful implementation of telehealth services, identify any barriers to successful implementation and consider strategies to address such barriers. The committee intends to visit some rural and regional telehealth sites and hold public hearings in Brisbane and other locations.

The committee will receive an initial public briefing from the Department of Health on Wednesday 5 March at 11.00am in Brisbane. The briefing program is available here. This public briefing will be broadcast live via the link http://www.parliament.qld.gov.au/work-of-committees/broadcast-committee/live, and a transcript of the briefing will be published here when available.