It’s tempting to think that nothing much has changed in the world of telehealth & telecare recently. For example the quality of healthcare PR looks to be unchanged, if the recent announcement by Telehealth Sensors is anything to go by. They claim to have developed an incontinence sensor that is “a revolutionary advancement in the home healthcare and post-acute care monitoring market.” Careful reading suggests this “revolutionary advancement” is based on the property of water, apparently only recently recognised by Telehealth Sensors, that it conducts electricity (especially if its impure) – so advanced in fact that such sensors with a rather longer lifetime than the 30 days claimed by Telehealth Sensors, have been around ever since this editor was involved with telecare.
In similar vein, it’s good to see that an E-health expert (in this case none other than an ex editor of TTA) has declared that mHealth apps are “useless”. Where would we be if there was unanimous support for what looks likely to become one of the driving forces in the world for improving public health everywhere, securing better patient outcomes and reducing the strain on healthcare systems? (He’s possibly in good company too, with the likes of Lord Kelvin who in 1900 declared “There is nothing new in physics to discover”, just before the revolution of quantum physics began.)
It’s also reassuring to see the news we broke last month that the TSA has again chosen their independent Chair from industry, (which has drawn some strong comment, and a response from Alyson Bell, Managing Director, well worth reading, plus a more recent item from our Editor). A further reassurance comes from yet another learned journal – in this case the Economist – predicting that perhaps the time has finally come for telemedicine, as we covered recently. Isn’t that how it always is? The FT has even contributed a series of articles on the “Silver Economy”.
A bit more disturbing is the report from iMedicalApps that patients are up in arms about lack of interoperability of diabetes hardware and apps, and are demanding that companies agree interoperability between themselves (disclosure: healthcare system interoperability is also the key objective of the Digital Health & Care Alliance (DHACA) that this editor is also Managing Director of). This article in the Huffington Post summarises one patient’s frustration. Can it be that patients are beginning to recognise the value of the technology and are starting to demand better? They are certainly starting to see the benefits of personal social care budgets, often enabled by technology, as this survey by Prof Chris Hatton from the Centre for Disability Research at Lancaster University and the social care charity In Control on behalf of Think Local Act Personal demonstrates (although the summary confusingly states that “Over 70 per cent of people who control their healthcare <sic> through personal budgets said that it led to greater independence and support.”)
Also worrying is the value of funds invested in healthcare IT this year which many sources – such as this one – are flagging up are as far exceeding previous years’ figures.
Perhaps something’s up? Certainly Nigeria seems to think so as they have turned to technology to try to manage the Ebola outbreak, and WHO have credited the app with helping eliminate the disease in that county. (By the way Dr Amir Hannan has provided an excellent information page on Ebola on his practice’s website, and Prof Mike Short has pointed me to the Charitytext site for giving for the Ebola crisis plus the GSMA’s report on the mobile response to the disease).
Meanwhile a colleague on the Royal Society of Medicine’s eHealth & Telemedicine Council, Clive Flashman, has written an excellent blog on one unexpected consequence of the NHS being seen as the closest thing to a national religion. There’s also been a burst of positive news, particularly about remote consultations. Pride of place goes to the claim that “93 percent of all telehealth video calls with First Stop Health doctors avoided expensive and time-consuming trips to doctors’ offices or emergency rooms” according to recent analysis conducted by telehealth and advocacy service provider First Stop Health. There’s also this item from the Daily Telegraph quoting Dr Dan Poulter, the health minister, as saying that smartphones and technology are about to change the health service dramatically. Providers of video consultation services that use televisions in people’s homes, V-connect (previously known as Red Embedded) and Speakset (disclosure: in which this editor has a small interest), must be rubbing their hands with glee.
Could it just be that at last the benefit that IT can bring to healthcare is being recognised? Even a careful reading of the press release from the TSA suggests that their independent chair, having as he does experience both in the NHS and in industry, is perhaps able to be a little more independent than some seem to expect him to be. And then there’s all the excitement of the NHS’s five year plan which is increasingly recognising the importance of technology and even mentions telecare & telehealth by name… Well at least if the excitement gets too much Telehealth Sensors have a ‘revolutionary advancement’ ready, to summon assistance!