Published: 26/05/2005, Volume II5, No. 5957 Page 3

Remote monitoring trial

Staff at The John Radcliffe hospital in Oxford will soon be able to check the status of high-risk patients without bringing them on site, thanks to a new deal to trial a pioneering remote monitoring system.

The contract, with technology specialist Medify Solutions, is the first of its kind in the UK to provide real-time status reports for patients at risk from chronic and life-threatening conditions such as diabetes and chronic heart failure.

John Radcliffe hospital consultant clinical physiologist Paul Johnson, who is spearheading the trial, says that as well as cutting the number of hospital admissions, the technology (called Medify Remote) will improve efficiency of staff and provide a new level of highly individualised diagnosis.

'This technology means that doctors and carers will be able to download live status reports on their mobile phones, digital television or computer from anywhere they like, ' he says.

It will make a huge difference compared to the current system where data is stored for 24 hours until it is manually downloaded onto a computer.

'We expect to start trialling the equipment early in May and 10 patients from the local community will be taking part.

Doctors will be able to set the download frequency for different patients so if they wanted to receive updates every half hour for high-risk patients they could easily do so.' Patients will be given a transmitting vest, which monitors their breathing and heart rate, and other tell-tale signs of potential problems, so doctors can choose to act swiftly or offer feedback and advice about lifestyle changes and medication.

'We spent a lot of time speaking to groups of patients to find out what the average person can make sense of. This means that when we go live we will understand exactly what information they want to receive in return, ' says Dr Johnson.

'We found that some patients were very happy to receive fullblown statistical reports and found it easy to see whether they have improved over time but obviously notes from doctors can help patients decipher information, ' The technology is expected to cost around£1,000 a year per patient. The decision to give free mobile phones to patients will lie with primary care trusts, but Dr Johnson says that a lot of patients will already have the technology available to receive their updates.