The UK’s National Health Service is rolling out seven projects to test mHealth and telehealth technology in remote patient monitoring. Officials say the ground-breaking initiative will help millions of Britons live at home while having real-time access to healthcare resources.
NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens said the “test beds” feature partnerships with some of the world’s largest companies and use telehealth, wearables and predictive analytics to move the nation’s health network toward what he called the “self-care era.”
"Over the next decade major health gains won't just come from a few 'miracle cures,’ (but from) combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications and artificial intelligence (AI) computing,” Stevens said while attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.
The projects are as follows:
- In Birmingham and Solihull, residents at risk of serious mental illness will be connected through an RPM platform developed by Accenture to crisis centers that can dispatch specialists in emergencies.
- In Sheffield, an “intelligence center” launched by IBM, GE and a dozen other participants will use RPM to help people with mental health issues and chronic conditions (such as diabetes, high blood pressure and respiratory disease) live independently.
- An HP-backed project covering the western part of England will test a remote monitoring program for diabetics.
- In Surrey, another project will use remote monitoring – including wearables – to help dementia patients at home.
- In Rochdale, Heywood and Middleton, Merck and Verily (formerly Google’s life sciences division) will spearhead a telehealth project that uses predictive analytics to target serious health issues in residents with chronic conditions like COPD and heart failure. The Long Term Conditions Early Intervention Program will combine electronic medical records with environmental (such as weather reports and pollution indexes) and socio-economic data to predict which patients are most at risk of a health crisis.
- In North London, Orion Health will join more than 10 partners in a healthy aging program that includes online tools, a mobile device that assesses mobility, and a social media app to help elderly residents live independently.
- And in Lancashire and Cumbria, programs backed by Philips and other companies will work with local healthcare agencies to use online resources, including social media, to promote healthy aging and help frail elderly get any support they need at home.
"Our new NHS Test Beds program aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world's largest public, integrated health service," Stevens said.
“Trials of this sort are vital to know whether new technologies can have a real impact on people’s lives, and it’s good to see that tools aimed at helping people with dementia are being evaluated as part of this scheme,” Hilary Evans, chief executive of Alzheimer’s Research UK, told The Telegraph. “Many of the projects being assessed aim to support people with dementia to live independently for longer, but there is also a desperate need for new treatments, preventions and better diagnostic tools. Investment in research must continue if we are to defeat dementia, and we must ensure that new treatments can reach the people who need them as quickly as possible.”
“A quarter of hospital beds are taken up by people with dementia and millions is spent on preventable admissions,” added George McNamara, the agency’s head of policy. “Our NHS and social care system has historically been too reactive, dealing with a series of emergencies. With an aging population and more people living with multiple long-term conditions it is right we focus on prevention and keeping people out of hospital – anticipating and preventing crises. Not only does it make good economic sense, but reduces the human misery associated with emergency admissions to hospital.”
“With any implementation of technology it is paramount that the person living with dementia should be at the center of any decisions made,” he said. “Each individual is different and their needs should be assessed on a case by case basis.”