The UK is facing a variety of health and social care challenges − an ageing population, a growing number of people in long-term care and an economic squeeze on public services.
As a result, healthcare providers need to do a lot more with a lot less. Mobile technology has the potential to give people more independence, as well as creating efficiencies in the NHS and other care organisations.
Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has declared that he wants to free people with long term conditions from the “merry-go-round” of doctors’ surgeries and hospitals − and sees telehealth as the way to do that. A year on from the launch of 3millionlives campaign − which aims to bring the benefits of telehealth to three million people by 2017 − the new clinical commissioning groups are being urged to redesign systems to put telehealth at their heart, as well as exploit the power of technology to improve partnership working with local authorities.
A shortage of stroke specialists has driven the creation of a pioneering video platform in the north west that allows consultants to work remotely, offering second opinions from hundreds of miles away. The project uses telecarts − computers with high definition cameras and microphones that link to consultants’ laptops − but video technology for ordinary smartphones could also be used to access remote expert help, potentially revolutionising the quality of care.
A report looking at the readiness of suppliers to meet future telehealth technology needs describes an ‘embryonic, small-scale and fragmented’ industry where firms are reluctant to invest. Encouraging growth of the industry is vital − and that will require better communication between suppliers and the NHS, as well as creative partnerships between firms, providers and government.