Global mobile phone network provider Orange has created a division to compete in the e-health market.

Named Orange Healthcare, the division will initially launch in France, as part of Orange France Télécom’s partnership in the country, with plans to expand across Europe over the next few years.

Eric Le Bihan, vice-president of the health program at Orange, told E-Health Europe: “The project seeks to make sure that in future, medical practices in both urban and rural areas will be able to benefit from advanced communications. For medical practitioners in isolated situations, ICT will be a must and hospitals too will be able to depend on communications technology to overcome isolation.”

Orange has moved into the healthcare market following the results of a survey, commissioned in-house, which showed that the French are lagging behind their fellow Europeans in utilising e-health solutions. According to the survey, only 37% of patients were prepared to use the internet to transmit data about their health, but 71% said that they were prepared to exchange information with other doctors and to share data.

Orange is now planning the launch of its first e-healthcare offering, Connected Hospital, which it hopes will improve patient comfort and care quality.

Connected Hospital comprises a number of facilities for both patients and staff. For patients a multimedia terminal above the bed will allow them to make phone calls, access the internet and various games, check their email and view video on demand or television stations, and access information about the facility and the facility’s medical staff.

For healthcare professionals there will be mobile terminals for voice-data exchange, interactive terminals, GPS patient wristbands and devices that make it possible to monitor – or even assist – healthcare workers in isolated situations.

Plans are in place to introduce the Colomba bracelet –a GPS wristband – designed to give greater freedom to people with Alzheimer’s disease and reduce risk of them getting lost.

In the field of medical data transmission, the company is working on its interpretation with medical care networks and hospital facilities. It is also working on devices for home care services – another crucial area for dependent patients and those being cared for at home.

Le Bihan said: “We are aiming to be the driving force of eHealth. This is a huge market because of trends, and because patients are unaware of its possibilities. We want to be able to provide services to both the medical services and services to the elderly and disabled markets. In an industry worth €450 billion for eHealth, we believe that our technology will allow health to adapt to the changing world around us.”

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