More consumer-driven wireless developments are on the horizon as mobile technology enjoys wider adoption in healthcare.
That’s one of the main predictions from Peter Kruger, principal analyst at Wireless Healthcare who says: “Companies are making straight for the consumer.”
He cites examples, such as the success of Resperate which claims to reduce hypertension through breathing training, as examples of the trend and HeartMath, a stress reduction system.
Remote monitoring devices have also found their place in the wireless repertoire. Many developments are based on mobile phones; for example, the Vitaphone which offers heart disease patients the facility to send readings over to a support centre if they feel unwell. The centre offers support right up to the level of calling an ambulance out if contact is lost with the patient.
But gaining entry to the market is getting tougher, according to Kruger. A few years ago, the mobile phone companies were happy to support e-health developments because they gave them a positive story to tell about health in the face of adverse press about possible risks from mobile phones.
Upheavals in the mobile phone sector changed this. “These projects have to stand on their own. They find they can’t go to O2 or Orange,” says Kruger. “They are trying to attract consumers themselves.”
One company has even found a niche in helping baby boomers now hitting their 50s and 60s to manage their decline; the Nintendo game, Brain Age, is a brain exerciser designed to aid mental agility.
Entrepreneurial breakthroughs in hospitals
For healthcare organisations, Kruger predicts continuing success for entrepreneurial solutions that spring out of innovative clinical practice. He cites Safe Surgery’s RFID tagging for surgery patients, championed by consultant surgeon, David Morgan, at Birmingham Heartlands Hospital, as an example of a this type of enterprise .
The work at the hospital has found favour with the Department of Health (DH) which is keen to adopt solutions that address some of the multiple patient safety issues in hospitals. Earlier this year health minister, Lord Hunt, launched guidance, ‘Coding for Success: simple technology for safer patient care’ on a visit to the Birmingham Heartlands NHS Trust.
Kruger speculates that disillusionment with slow progress on larger NHS IT projects may trigger interest in smaller projects produced by agile players in the market. He cites the example of iPlato’s mobile e-reminder solutions which, again, have captured attention at DH level by producing impressive reductions in ‘did not attend’ rates for appointments – a long-standing and wasteful problem.
“The question is ‘What can we add to this?’” Kruger says.
Stress monitoring and helping people to give up smoking are the newer areas where the mobile reminder seems destined to take its place among commonly-used strategies available to the clinician and patient.
Indeed iPlato recently announced the launch of a mobile stress service created with its strategic partner – the Atrium Clinic – that uses the latest Java technology to provide a rich experience for users. Triggered through a web-interface or through text message it offers users top 20 tips on dealing with stress.
Changes in the law on smoking in public places in force in Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland and pending in England are likely to give a boost to mobile aids to smoking cessation.
Additional suppliers will boost English market
Kruger says that England’s National Programme for IT caused a slow down in wireless healthcare initially, but that innovative developers found the other routes to market he describes.
He feels the current crisis in medical recruitment is bad news for those championing technology-led change. Times when staff are worried about their jobs are typically also times when suspicion of IT rises. Less popular national programme developments such as Choose and Book have also alienated some doctors to IT.
However, the advent of the additional suppliers’ catalogue should free up budgets in a welcome way. Despite its problems, Kruger says that the national programme has brought a lot of money into the system and alerted the public more to what can be done with IT.