Northern Ireland rolls out telemonitoring scheme

Largest UK deployment will help patients better manage long-term conditions

Telemonitoring systems will be used to transform the lives of 20,000 people living in Northern Ireland.

Over the next six years, assistive technology will be rolled out to the homes of patients suffering from long-term conditions to help them maintain their independence and better manage their health.

The TelemonitoringNI service is the largest of its kind in the UK and is being provided by TF3 – a consortium of Tunstall Healthcare, Fold Housing Association and S3 Group - in conjunction with five health and social care trusts.

The intended rollout to 20,000 people follows a pilot of 1,000 patients and aims to tackle the growing pressures on services predicted as the population ages.

The roll-out of TelemonitoringNI represents a significant step towards providing quality care for the growing number of people with chronic illnesses who want to live at home while having their conditions safely managed

With the fastest-growing population in the UK, Northern Ireland is expecting a major increase in the prevalence of conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension and diabetes. According to the Northern Ireland Executive, the increase in population will bring a 4% increase in demand for services by 2015 and will mean a potential 23,000 more hospital admissions, 48,000 outpatient appointments and 40,000 extra 999 ambulance responses.

The TF3 consortium was awarded the ‘end-to-end’ managed service last year, representing an investment of £18m by the Department of Health, Social Services and the Centre for Connected Health and Social Care, Public Health Agency. (CCHSC).

The telemonitoring service allows patients to take their readings at home and automatically send information directly to the healthcare provider via a telephone link. It aims to improve outcomes for patients through earlier intervention, prevent deterioration of their condition, and avoid unnecessary hospital admissions.

Telemonitoring is an excellent example of how modern technology can help deliver a better service for the patient and also allow more efficient use of the healthcare professional’s time and skills

Marie Farren, wife and carer of Michael, who suffers from diabetes, was involved in the trial and said: “Everything just fell into place once telemonitoring was fitted. Michael hasn’t had a hospital admission or infection since. We really appreciate the support, especially as I am the primary carer for Michael and sometimes you feel as though you’re the only one doing it, but with the support of the service I have been able to better care for Michael and he is much happier, which feels great.”

Eddie Ritson, programme director at the CCHSC, added: “The roll-out of TelemonitoringNI represents a significant step towards providing quality care for the growing number of people with chronic illnesses who want to live at home while having their conditions safely managed.

“A patient will take vital sign measurements at home, usually on a daily basis, and these are automatically transmitted to the system, where they may be monitored by the triage team. If the patient’s readings cause concern, a nurse will contact them by phone and if necessary the patient’s clinician will be alerted to enable them to take appropriate action.

“Telemonitoring is an excellent example of how modern technology can help deliver a better service for the patient and also allow more efficient use of the healthcare professional’s time and skills.”

To deal with the data collected and any calls received, the TF3 consortium has established a unique clinical triage service staffed by nurses that connects all five health and social care trust professionals.

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