New Government urged to put remote patient monitoring at top of agenda

Dell UK's Richard Rawcliffe claims joined-up approach to increasing adoption of innovative technologies is needed to protect NHS

Experts are calling for the new Government to put remote patient monitoring back at the top of the health and social care agenda.

They claim a joined-up approach to increasing the adoption of innovative technologies is needed to ensure services do not become overwhelmed as the population ages.

Speaking to BBH this week, Richard Rawcliffe, executive director and general manager of Dell UK, said: “It will be interesting to see what happens following the General Election and I am hoping it will lead to a drive for greater usage of the innovations in technology that can help to bring health and social care together.

It will be interesting to see what happens following the General Election and I am hoping it will lead to a drive for greater usage of the innovations in technology that can help to bring health and social care together

“There are clearly savings to be made by adopting remote patient monitoring systems and I think we will see more of this over the coming years.”

Telecare and telehealth solutions have been used in several areas of the UK, but widespread adoption was scuppered by problems implementing the last government’s 3millionlives initiative.

This has since been superceded by NHS England’s Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) programme, which aims to maximise the value of technology-enabled care.

It will raise awareness of how the wide range of TECS can support commissioning intentions and benefit patients. It also addresses the demand from commissioners for information on how to commission, procure, implement and evaluate these types of solutions effectively.

Rawcliffe said: “Telecare is nothing new. It has been around for some time, but more recently we have looked at providing additional support in terms of health and social care services.”

Early ‘telecare’ systems meant vulnerable or elderly people could push a button or pull a cord to connect to a help centre where they could speak to advisers. More-recent systems offer much more than this, including the ability to measure key health indicators.

For example, a COPD sufferer can measure their vital signs, including oxygen saturation and blood pressure, at home and this information can then be relayed via an internet connection to a health professional who can advise on changes to lifestyle or medication.

“The Government’s Whole System Demonstrator project aimed to increase take-up of remote monitoring technologies and as a pilot it threw out some really good results,” said Rawcliffe.

“But what we have learned from this, and other trials, is that there needs to be a combined approach to deployment.

“People do not like things imposed upon them, whether that be GPs or nurses or the patients themselves.

“If things are forced on people then there will be an automatic reaction against it. The message has not been put across in the best way.

My advice to NHS trusts is to reach out and speak to colleagues who have already embarked on this technological journey and to start small and grow from there. The biggest benefits are to be had by targeting those with the most-serious healthcare needs

“However, the evidence is that remote monitoring technologies can, and do, reduce anxiety as well as encourage people to self manage their health and social care needs.”

This is why manufacturers and service operators need to come up with solutions that are easy to deploy and simple to use.

“It’s wrong to think that older people cannot, and do not want to, use technology,” said Rawcliffe.

“We are seeing a rise in the so-called ‘grey surfer’ and an increase in technology use among this age group. But it will only work if the patient is at the centre.”

In terms of the solutions available, he said the emphasis for suppliers is on ensuring readings taken are accurate and that patients understand how to use them.

“We need to take a step back and look at increasing our use of remote monitoring,” he added.

“Whether this be giving elderly people devices with which they can measure their health and wellbeing, or putting computers into the hands of community nurses so they can hold case conferences and liaise with other health and social care professionals while in the patient’s home.

“As we adopt more and more of these technologies, it is important that we pick the right medium for the patient.

“My advice to NHS trusts is to reach out and speak to colleagues who have already embarked on this technological journey and to start small and grow from there. The biggest benefits are to be had by targeting those with the most-serious healthcare needs.”

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