Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD

Remote Monitoring News

UK Pilot Aims to Make Telehealth More Affordable

A remote patient monitoring pilot being launched this year will use an inexpensive tablet and off-the-shelf attachments, all on an open-source platform.

By Eric Wicklund

- A UK study aims to test whether an open-source tablet and platform can be used to make remote patient monitoring more popular.

Britain’s Health and Social Care Information Center (HSCIC) will be piloting a telehealth program later this year called MediPi. The program uses a British-built Raspberry Pi touchscreen tablet and off-the-shelf attachments, such as a blood pressure cuff and pulse oximeter. All told, the telehealth unit costs roughly $360.

While the HSCIC won’t identify which trust will deploy the platform or who it will target, news outlets says the likely target population is people with heart disease. Some 900,000 people in the UK are felled by heart failure each year, with as much as 40 percent dying in the first year of diagnosis.

Home-based patient monitoring programs have been slow to catch on in the UK and elsewhere – including the US – primarily due to the cost. A 2013 study published in the British Medical Journal found that telehealth added about $131,400 to the quality-adjusted life year of a patient with a long-term chronic condition.

“A community-based, telehealth intervention is unlikely to be cost effective, based on health and social care costs and outcomes after 12 months,” the report, prepared at the request of the UK’s National Health Service, said.

Now officials are hoping that a simple, affordable platform and interface can make the difference.

“The cost for telehealth is crazy when you think about it,” Richard Robinson, an HSCIC technical integration specialist who launched the new pilot, told ComputerWeekly.com. “Devices like Raspberry Pis are being churned out at £32 ($45), so I thought I could definitely do it cheaper.”

The platform features a dashboard and icons for each device, and a yes-or-no questionnaire for each connection. The devices are attached by USB cable, though the JavaFX software could be configured for a wireless connection.

Robinson said the data gathered by the platform will be encoded and sent via the NHS’ Spine messaging network. Because it’s open-source and agnostic, the program could be run through any number of platforms and use other messaging services. It’s up to the NHS Trust and the patient to determine what works best.

This project follows an NHS announcement in February that it would contribute some $6 billion to a wide range of digital health initiatives, including remote care programs, mobile apps, telehealth platforms, Wi-Fi-enables buildings, real-time patient access to medical records and a “click and collect” service for prescriptions.

“The NHS has the opportunity to become a world leader in introducing new technology, which means better patient outcomes and a revolution in healthcare at home,” UK Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said in a Feb. 22 press conference. “On the back of a strong economy, and because of our belief in the NHS and its values, we are investing more than (4 billion pounds) across the health system to ease pressure on the frontline and create stronger partnerships between doctor and patients.”

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