The Telecare Services Association (TSA) in the UK has recently released a white paper addressing the impact of a fundamental change to the 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.
Asthma UK today unveils a key report that tells developers how mHealth could help asthma sufferers better. Entitled “Connected asthma: how technology will transform care”, whilst picking out a few excellent exemplars, it describes how poor the average asthma app currently is – for example only 6% of such apps provide pollution status, and only 8% cover inhaler technique.
Historically CHF, COPD & diabetes have been regarded as the key long term conditions to manage using telehealth. When, as this editor did a few years back, a suggestion was made to try it on asthma, clinicians tended to look askance. Yet as this report shows, mHealth can do a huge amount to improve the management of asthma especially now many people have smartphones. And, bluntly, asthma kills (more…)
Future technologies are expected to play an important role in supporting independence in later life says one of the main findings from research published this week in the UK. People aged 65 and over who have not grown up with technology around them, perhaps unsurprisingly, find it more difficult to master the latest technologies initially than younger groups do and there are concerns that society could become more inactive and too reliant on technology. This are some of the other main findings given in the report ‘How Tech Savvy are We?’ from the Institution of Engineering and Technology (IET) in the UK.
Although the research was not focused on just the older age group there are some aspects which are particularly looking at this group of people.
There is no clear consensus on which of the six proposed technologies in the research would be most useful in later life – smart healthcare devices are rated most useful by 27%, whilst driver-less cars and robot help are deemed the most useful by only 10%. This suggests a possible disconnect between what industry is developing and what the public actually wants says the IET.
Commenting on the report’s findings, Chris Cartwright, Chair of the IET Information and Communications Sector, is quoted as saying: “It’s great to see strong public support and understanding for the potential benefits new technologies offer an ageing population. But it’s less encouraging that this support is still hindered by concerns around cost, lack of physical activity and loss of human contact. There is also a lack of clarity about which technologies people will find most useful, probably because they are unclear of the benefits.
Have you ever had one of those days when you get home from work and can’t remember anything about the drive back? I certainly have. Your mind is so engrossed on that knotty problem or you’re busy with a conference call. Being on auto-pilot, we call it.
Now, we all probably know one or more people who take regular medication and use a pill organiser to help remember whether they took their medicines. When one is taking regular medication it becomes so second nature that one is sometimes on auto-pilot and without some means of checking like using a pill organiser it is so easy to lose track of whether one had the tablets at lunchtime.
Yesterday a report was published in the British newspaper, The Telegraph, about research carried out on the impact of using pill organisers and the results were rather surprising. When people who had not previously used pill organisers were switched to use organisers researchers observed that patients using the organisers were having more medical problems than a control group. Problems such as falls and hypoglycaemic episodes. What was going on? (more…)
This Wednesday, June 1st, is National Telecare Awareness Day in the UK for 2016. This is promoted by the industry body UK Telehealthcare.
To mark the day, CAIR, the UK based telecare products supply company, is holding an event at their headquarters in West Yorkshire. According to information available from the Telecare Services Association, twelve of the region’s leading voices in Telecare will gather to “tackle some of the challenges facing the industry”.
Last year several activities took place to mark the day, then called National Telehealthcare Awareness Day, with events being held by CAIR, University of East Anglia’s Norwich Electronic Assistive Technology Centre (NEAT), Welbeing (an independent-living service provider) and many others.
A summary of last year’s events is available via the UK Telehealthcare website here.
NHS England has announced a series of “Innovation Test Beds” that will be used to “harness technology to address some of the most complex issues facing patients and the health service”.
“Front-line health and care workers in seven areas will pioneer and evaluate the use of novel combinations of interconnected devices such as wearable monitors, data analysis and ways of working which will help patients stay well and monitor their conditions themselves at home”, according to the NHS press release. (more…)
The High Court has ruled that Cornwall Council is within its rights to terminate the multi-million pound services outsourcing contract with BT because BT “did not provide … the service it had promised to the standard it had promised”.
Cornwall Council welcomed the High Court decision yesterday saying “The judge’s decision confirms the Council’s argument that BT Cornwall had been in material breach of the contract due to their failure to carry out services to the required contractual standards and, therefore, that we were justified in reaching the decision that we were entitled to terminate the contract.
“As a result of this decision, the Council intends to give notice of the contract before Christmas but there will be no immediate change in the arrangements as notice will not take effect until January.”
BT was awarded the 10-year contract in 2013 amid much controversy as was widely reported including here on TTA. (more…)
The value of a telecare service, typified by the familiar red-button alarms worn round the neck or wrist and providing the less able to confidently live an independent life is, of course, well known. Telecare also provides a range of unobtrusive wireless sensors that detects possible problems around the home such as a gas hob or tap left on, smoke from a smouldering sofa where a cigarette may have fallen and so on.
There are many companies around the world providing telecare services. But what if the service suffers an interruption? What needs to be done and what is the cost?
The UK’s NHS in Scotland had to face these questions recently when the telecare service it provides in the Highland Council area suffered a total failure last week. The system had failed for about four hours last Saturday and, although a backup system existed, that failed to deploy. (more…)
The Welsh Government is to invest £250,000 in expanding telehealth services in rural parts of the country, it has been announced today. This is part of a £10 million investment that was announced in January to improve efficiency in the Welsh NHS.
Information available indicates that this telehealth investment is primarily in imaging technology enabling specialists in distant centres to access X-ray and other images taken at rural health facilities closer to the patients.
The press release from the Welsh Government quotes the Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford as saying “Telehealth already means orthopaedic specialists in Abergavenny can look at X-rays from Brecon to avoid unnecessary travel for patients. This investment will take stock of all practices which use telehealth across NHS Wales (more…)
Three of the eleven companies through to the next stage of the NHS Small Business Research Initiative (SBRI) are in the “Telehealth/Telecare for people with Learning Disabilities” category, according to the latest news release on the SBRI website. Each will receive a further £1 million to continue with prototype development and product testing.
The three companies are Red Embedded, Maldaba and Cupris Health. The other companies going through to the next stage are BioSensors, Digital Creativity in Disability, Bering, Docobo, ADI, Folium Optics, Armourgel and MIRA Rehab.
SBRI Healthcare is an initiative from NHS England supporting a programme of competitions inviting companies to come forward with their ideas and new technologies for known NHS challenges. In the last year, SBRI Healthcare has launched 10 new clinically-led competitions and awarded £22.4 million to 60 companies to develop products focused on specific NHS unmet need.
Read the full news release at SBRI Healthcare Funds Companies to Develop Game Changing Technologies.
Did you watch the Panorama programme yesterday on BBC (only available in the UK, I understand)? Subtitled “Could a Robot do my Job?” reporter Rohan Silva was looking at the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the workplace and jobs, primarily in the UK.
The last section of the programme was on a data analysis system at a Boston hospital (Beth Israel Deaconess Memorial Center). The reporter mentioned they use an “artifical intelligence supercomputer” (!) in their emergency department that can “forecast if you’ll die in the next 30 days”. Well, not quite, but, “forecast the probability of a patient dying with almost 96% confidence” according to the very enthusiastic doctor (and the only one featured in the programme) at the hospital. Not sure if that is all PR or verified independently.
I was very impressed when it was mentioned that the computer had 30 years of data from over 250,000 patients,so it could recognise rare deceases quicker than a doctor. After all my navigator can find me a route a 100 times faster than I can, so why not.
But then I got thinking. 30 years ago they didn’t collect patient’s blood oxygen level and blood pressure every 3 minutes like they are doing now. This was an emergency department, not the obvious place for lots of people with a rare diseases to turn up. How many rare diseases had this system diagnosed so far? So there was a fair bit of mirrors and smoke to make it look far better than it really is I think. In fact, I think the Boston system is actually just good example of what is called Big Data at work.
This tendency to exaggerate was true of the rest of the programme too which can be fairly described as sensational rather than educational.
No doubt the publicity will help the hospital. I see that the story about the dying prediction appears on many newspaper websites right now with headlines like “the supercomputer that can predict when you’ll die”!
Thanks Donna for telling me about the programme.
The King’s Fund continues to perform a great public service in objectively following and compiling where the five major parties stand on health issues and drawing some clear lines. In the 7 May election, the future of the NHS has become one of the major issues facing Britain, to the point of ‘make-or-break’. Their latest digest presents Conservative, Labour, Liberal Democrat, Green and UKIP pledges in six areas in animated infographic style: NHS forward funding, mental health, integrated care (health and social care, national/local levels), GP access (US=primary care), public health and NHS reform. More detailed information is available in PDF form. The main website on their General Election coverage including the major parties’ manifestos as well as the independent National Health Action Party is here. Bottom line: the NHS needs £8 billion to maintain itself. The rest is debate. Kudos to The King’s Fund, and makes us even prouder to be again this year a supporter of the Digital Health and Care Congress (and to offer our readers a 10 percent discount on registration, see sidebar to right.)
Our UK readers who want a stinging critique of the parties’ stances (concentrating on Conservative and Labour) would do well to read Roy Lilley’s latest in his NHSManagers newsletter here.
In a news release this morning (19 March 2015) the Scottish Government said it is to allocate £200m over two years to support the implementation of health and social care integration.
According to the release the investment will extend the current Integrated Care Fund into 2016/17 and 2017/18, and comes on top of £100 million of funding already allocated for 2015/16. The money will be distributed among the 32 local NHS and social care partnerships that have been set up as part of the move towards integrated services.
The Integrated Care Fund forms part of over half a billion pounds of Government investment over the next three years that will be used to support integration, including £100 million over three years for delayed discharge, and £30 million over three years for Telehealth.
The Integrated Care Fund supports the implementation of plans to bring together health and local authority care services by 1 April 2016. This will give the partnerships the resources to focus on preventative care and early intervention as well as support for people with multiple and long-term conditions. (more…)
The Telecare LIN Newsletter for this month is out now and contains 44 pages of news, views and updates on various projects related to care for the elderly and telecare, mainly from the UK.
A short article in the NHS England website announcing a meeting in London in March entitled “Older People’s Care Summit” is highlighted and some of the statistics there caught my eye. It says that there are 3 million people over the age of 80 in the UK and by 2030 the number is expected to double with the figure reaching 8 million by 2050. I’ve worked with the demographic change graphs for some time now but this is a particularly stark statistic to bring home the need for new approaches to care for the elderly. (The summit still had spaces available if anyone is interested and registration is at this page).
There is a link to Roy Lilley’s new website “The Academy of Fabulous NHS Stuff” and pointers to some article on telemedicine in China.
On the technology side there is an item on mental health apps and a pointer to a good article on why Australia (could be any country really) isn’t further ahead than it is with Assistive Tech for the elderly living at home.
A good read to catch up on things you may have missed over the month.
In a recent article (Wearables and mHealth: a few observations, TTA July 13, 2014) editor Charles Lowe reported on the successful uses of telehealth to manage those with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in Australia. Now we have a report from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN), part of the University of Sheffield, of a trial in the UK of a patient monitoring system to ensure that aids and assistance can get to patients at the right time.
According to the news release from SITraN the system consists of an App on a tablet and a website. The App provides weekly updates on mobility and general well-being to the patient’s specialist MND care team. The website provides guidance on the use of breathing support for people with MND.
SITraN has received funding from the National Institute for Health Research for a trial of 40 patients to assess how well the telehealth system works.
NHS England has sketched out the future of healthcare and it will be one using smartphones and wearable bio-sensors to monitor ourselves and alert clinicians. NHS National Medical Director Sir Bruce Keogh has written to around 250 organisations across health, social care, industry and third sector asking them to support the Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) programme which he says will take the NHS into this new technological era.
The TECS programme, born out of the Three Million Lives (3ML) initiative (which didn’t quite go anywhere after all the song and dance, including from Prime Minister David Cameron), was reviewed last year resulting in the change of focus to “address the demand for support and practical tools to commission, procure, implement and evaluate technology enabled care services” according to Sir Bruce’s letter as reported on the NHS England website.
The TECS Stakeholder Forum‘s views and proposals now form the TECS Improvement Plan for 2014-17. This is a broader group following the failure of the 3ML Stakeholder Forum, which consisted mainly big industry organisations, to achieve anything of substance.
According to the NHS England website posting, Sir Bruce explains: “To ensure continued progress, we have brought together a TECS Implementation Group consisting of experts and leaders from across these sectors whose remit is to support the strategic development and delivery of the proposals within the Improvement Plan. In addition, we have formed the TECS Executive Steering Group which meets regularly to provide clinical, technological and strategic leadership for the programme at a director level in NHS England.”
This all sounds like a lot of bureaucracy and a drawn out attempt to rescue what remains of the 3ML programme. I started thinking of the Titanic and deck chairs.