Telecare Services Association Conference Tue 15 Nov 2011

Two halves and a bit

The morning’s plenary sessions were quite intense and, although they finished at 11:00 felt like half a day. They introduced more undefined uses of the word ‘telehealth’. The second half comprised the break-out sessions and/or digging more deeply into the exhibition area. I got caught up in the latter. The final bit was a short plenary session. (Notes below.)

First off there was Dr Dawn Harper, GP, author and co-presenter of the UK’s first primetime ‘telehealth’ television programme where people called in (it’s not airing at present) via Skype to discuss and share with the viewing masses things that they were too embarrassed to discuss with their doctors. Unlikely, but true. And, Dr Harper thought, the reason why they did (apart from getting 5 minutes of fame), was that they were often frustrated with the care, or lack of it, that they were getting from the NHS. As I understood it, the programme would sometimes pay for treatments not available on the NHS. Her session raised issues about the consultation and communication styles of doctors and nurses in the 21st century and about access to them.

Dr Harper was followed by Peter Carter, Chief Executive of the Royal College of Nursing. He took the audience by surprise by not trumpeting the importance of nurses, as you might expect. Instead he demonstrated that, thanks to his travels around the country meeting nurses ‘in the field’ he has become a passionate advocate of monitoring patients at home via telehealth services. He showed a video about a Second World War veteran who asks to be supported to live at home. It moved many in the audience to tears. Now it’s your turn: My Right to Choose

Dr Carter said that the UK has sleepwalked into a situation where we are not geared up to serving people with LTCs properly and that the (anecdotal) evidence for the benefit of telehealth monitoring is clear. He said – and I heavily paraphrase from here on – that it’s not a panacea, but it can make huge inroads into helping the NHS out of the mess it is in and it would be better if the Department of Health would get off its non-directive fence and do a bit of top-down direction for once. There was enthusiastic applause.

The final speaker of the morning, Dr George Crooks, Medical Director NHS24 in Scotland talked on Integrating Services across Scotland. The good news is that NHS24 is working on a strategy for next year for Scotland that will bring together all aspects of public-facing telehealth (in its very broadest sense) from information-giving by phone, internet and TV to home health monitoring AND it will include telecare provision. NHS24, with its special relationship to the Scottish Government, will become the largest provider of these services. (Interesting procurement and tendering issues there!)

[Unbelievably, for someone representing such a high profile organisation, at least one of Dr Crooks’ presentation slides comprised a picture copied off the internet, making one wonder how many other people’s copyright he was infringing. The offending picture still had the Shutterstock watermark designed to discourage copyright theft! It’s about the cost of a cup of coffee to buy the right to use the unwatermarked image.]

Snippets from the exhibition

There were a number of companies introducing new technologies and services this year and needing to update their websites with the information. When they do there will be links on Telecare Aware. Just to whet your appetite, there are:

  • a telecare game from SupraUK called Save Doris
  • a new UK-wide telecare installation service from SupraUK
  • new additions to Tynetec’s range
  • a new service from Telehealth Solutions
  • new device monitoring software from Burnside, called Monicare
  • an additional feature to CareConnectMe’s service
  • eye-popping case studies of the use of Just Checking equipment with people with learning disabilities

I missed all the break-out sessions and I’m sorry because some look as though they drill down into some interesting stuff. The organiser’s info on them can be found listed here and I’d be pleased to publish notes from people who ran or who attended sessions. Email me.

Final plenary session

First there was a canter through the UK Government’s Technology Strategy Board’s (TSB) Delivering Assisted Living Lifestyles at Scale (DALLAS) programme by David Bott. People not in the selected participating sites are encouraged to ‘join in’. [Sorry I did not write down the link for the latter and cannot find it on the site.]

Finally there was ‘The Big Issue’ debate on whether the future of integrated services (undefined) should be national, regional or local or a mixture.

The lead participants, Alyson Bell; Nicholas Robinson; Mike Biddle and Moira McKenzie did not get the chance to shine, mostly because the discussion was conducted under time pressure owing to the need to prepare the hall for the conference dinner afterwards. The result was predictable and lacklustre.

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