Patients to be monitored from home via mobile.
UK citizens could soon benefit from the services of ‘virtual doctors’, with patients able to be monitored from home via their mobile as part of the government’s telehealth push.
British health minister Jeremy Hunt announced plans in November to introduce telehealth to 100,000 people with long-term conditions in 2013, with the aim of having three million on the system by 2017. The department of health claims it could save up to 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) over five years.
The US is currently the only other nation to have embraced mobile technology to monitor patients at home.
64-year-old Shirley Silvers from Stoke-on-Trent is one of those currently being monitored from home by mobile. And she, for one, has been particularly impressed with the telehealth service. "It is like having my doctor sitting on my sofa," she commented.
Aside the from the health benefits that may come with monitoring patients from home, the department of health also claims it could save up to 1.2 billion pounds ($1.9 billion) over five years by keeping people such as Silvers - who suffers from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – in good health and out of hospital.
With mobile technology sufficiently advanced and affordable enough to monitor patients at home and offer consultations over the Internet, Christian Mazzi, a partner with consultancy Bain & Co, believes that telehealth could not only be a huge success, but that the Britain’s commitment could play a key role in bringing the rest of Europe round to embracing the service. "Putting incentives and structures in place is beginning to remove some of the barriers to a broader roll out," he said.
From medical equipment firms to app developers, many are now looking to enter the market now that it is starting to gather pace. PricewaterhouseCoopers has suggested that the worldwide market for mobile communications and devices used in healthcare will reach around $23 billion by 2017 – up from $4.5 billion forecast for 2013.
Telecom operators are expected to be the biggest winners from telehealth, taking around half of those sales, which goes someway to explaining their increasing interest in healthcare.