£18m telemonitoring scheme launches in Northern Ireland

Project set to improve care for 20,000 patients

Northern Ireland Health Minister, Edwin Poots, has launched an £18m telemonitoring scheme that will help to support 20,000 patients with long-term conditions.

The technology is being used in a bid to improve clinical outcomes among patients through enhanced self management and better engagement with clinicians.

It is being adopted by all five of the country’s health boards as part of a contract drawn up by the European Centre for Connected Health, part of Northern Ireland’s Public Health Agency.

Over the next six years, TF3, a consortium made up of suppliers Tunstall Healthcare, Fold Telecare and S3 Group, will provide a telemonitoring service, significantly reducing pressure on frontline services by enabling patients to be cared for in the community.

At the launch of the scheme this week, Poots said: “Connected health is quite a simple concept. By using companies with innovative technologies and products, we enable more patients to manage their condition at home, which means fewer visits to hospital and provides opportunities for local companies to reap the rewards.

“By using advanced technology in the right way, we enable patients and carers to monitor their condition at home, which leads to earlier intervention and reduces hospital admissions.

“This is at the very heart of where our health service needs to go. We need to be more flexible, put the patient at the centre and ensure more people have the chance to stay at home with their families.”

Under the programme, patients with conditions such as diabetes and heart problems can take key readings such as blood pressure and pulse and this information is automatically transferred to a secure server that can be accessed by healthcare professionals.

Simon Arnold, director of TF34, said: “The managed services that the consortium provides are key to minimising unplanned hospital admissions, accelerating discharge and enabling clinicians to improve patient care through remote monitoring. It’s a great step forward in supporting the people of Northern Ireland.”

One of the patients taking part in the scheme is 71-year-old COPD sufferer, Michael Howard, of Larne. He said: “Taking my readings is such a simple process, but one that offers me huge benefits as it is an early warning sign for me and for the specialist nurses in charge of my care.

“Without the remote telemonitoring I would be running back and forward to the GP surgery all the time to have things checked out. Having my signs monitored by a nurse means any changes in my condition are dealt with immediately and this has prevented me being admitted to hospital. In the past I have had to spend six days in hospital any time I am admitted with a chest infection.

“The telemonitoring is not only reassuring for me, it also gives me more control over managing my own condition and as a result I have less upheaval in my life and I am less of a financial burden on the healthcare system. Most importantly, it gives me peace of mind and one less thing to worry about at my age.”

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