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UK Program to Put Home-Based mHealth Data in Clinicians’ Hands

The UK's National Health Service is ready to roll out two mHealth apps that transmit data from home monitoring devices to care providers, giving them access to medical-grade data that's crucial to care management.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- The UK’s health system is set to roll out two apps that will enable healthcare providers to gather clinical grade data from patients at home.

The program, now being tested at four hospitals in and around Oxfordshire, could be extended to four National Health Services (NHS) districts over the next year. It marks the first time the NHS has tested a platform that gathers data directly from an mHealth devices, rather than relying on a patient to send that data to a provider.

In rolling out the apps, the NHS is following a similar path trod by US health systems, where clinicians with little faith in the reliability of consumer-facing apps are looking for mHealth platforms that provide medical-grade data. The efforts her is led by companies like Qualcomm Life, whose 2net hub is designed to pull data directly from remote monitoring devices and deliver it to clinicians.

f you're going to make life-and-death decisions, you're going to want to use a medical grade solution,” James Mault, Qualcomm Life’s chief medical officer, said in 2015 when the 2net hub was beginning to gain traction in healthcare circles.

Last September, Royal Philips – one of the biggest players in the home-based patient monitoring hemisphere – announced a partnership with Qualcomm Life to provide medical-grade connectivity to Philips’ HealthSuite platform.

READ MORE: Doctors Still Don’t Trust mHealth Apps

“As the home is fast becoming a viable care setting, care providers, home health agencies and other institutions are increasingly using connected care to reduce emergency care, readmissions of patients with chronic diseases,” Jeroen Tas, CEO of Philips’ connected care and health informatics business, said in a press release. “By collaborating with Qualcomm Life and leveraging its connectivity and wireless expertise, we aim to help care providers to engage better with their patients and contribute to the goal of improving outcomes. Patient self-management combined with 24/7 connectivity to a care network is an emerging model that enables scalable chronic disease management for patients and providers.”

That same process is now happening in the UK, where NHS researchers are hoping for provider acceptance of mHealth platforms that draw data directly from monitoring devices.

“It’s a bit like the Wild West out there with lots of keen and very motivated people producing these apps,” Rory Holman, of the Oxford Biomedical Research Center, tells the UK online magazine New Scientist. “What we need are consistent standards and an interface with electronic patient records, particularly with the NHS, so that information, with permission from the patients, can be put to use centrally.”

The apps, developed over the past eight years at the Oxford University Institute of Biomedical Engineering, target gestational diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).  

The first app, GDm-health, targeting a condition that affects one in 10 pregnant women, reduced doctor visits by 25 percent in a two-year pilot at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. The app enables women to transmit blood glucose readings from their mobile device to providers, who can more easily monitor them and decide when to intervene.

READ MORE: Physician Perspectives on Benefits of mHealth Adoption, Use

The second app, targeting a condition that affects between 1 million and 1.5 million UK residents, allows users to automatically download and transmit heart rate and blood oxygen saturation data from a mobile monitor to their doctor. The app requires three months of daily use to set a baseline for each user, and can then alert the patient’s care team when a reading falls beyond the acceptable range.

According to NHS officials, a year-long pilot with the app saw doctor’s visits reduced by 40 percent and hospitalizations reduced by 17 percent.

“Patients are much more confident about managing themselves and are getting into trouble far less often,” Lionel Tarassenko, of the Oxford University Institute of Biomedical Engineering, told New Scientist.

Because the NHS has a small staff and limited budget to support these programs, it has partnered with Drayson Technologies to manage the rollout to four NHS trusts within the year, with Drayson getting the rights to commercialize the apps. Two other apps are included in the rollout, including one that allows nurses making rounds to gather patients’ vital signs on a tablet and determine when a certain patient’s vitals are trending toward a health emergency.

Tarassenko says the apps are more likely to gain credence with healthcare providers because they’re “designed in the NHS for the NHS.”

READ MORE: How Do You Validate a Digital Health App?

“It’s been very important for us to have credibility with our clinical colleagues,” he says.


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