Telecare and Telemedicine (or Telehealth) are already well-established forms of health and care delivery. However, only recently this seems to have come to more of a light as an alternative way of delivery of healthcare.
But what are Telecare and Telemedicine?
Telecare allows for the people to remain independent within their own homes. It reduces the dependency on caregivers, thus allow them to lead lives without constant support. Telecare incorporates a range of devices that are remotely monitored. These devices and sensors can range from fall detectors; pressure sensors (to help prevent pressure sores) to door call systems, simple call buttons and motion sensors. The remote monitoring of these varies from call centers to even family members. Tunstall has been working within the UK NHS for years, producing a range of sensors for assisted living. Evermind is a simple plug accessory that is easily installed by family members, which sends activity information to the Evermind network accessible by family members or caregivers.
Telemedicine allows for people less able monitor health parameters and access medical care within their homes. Data is collected electronically by the patient or carer and sent to the nearest health centre where physiological parameters are monitored by healthcare professionals. Any abnormalities in these parameters will flag up. These can then be remotely diagnosed by a healthcare professional. Babylon Healthcare is an App that provides video, or text consultation with health professionals and even allows for the issue of electronic prescriptions, either sent direct to the pharmacy or to the patient.
At present, the market is flooded with electronic patient record systems. Google has previous unsuccessfully trialled Google Health, which was a cloud based electronic patient record system, which was probably too premature and there has been some doubt over data security.
Many platforms are arising that will hopefully bring together all of these parameters with increased security. Microsoft have already released HealthVault which allows for cloud based storing of patient data along with allowing the collaboration with existing apps and wearable devices such as FitBit. Some others that are emerging include Google Fit and Apple Health. These platforms will allow for a single point of collection of wearable tech data, physiological data, and assisted living data. Combining it with online patient records systems; this would allow healthcare professionals to make more informed clinical decisions, especially if conducting consultations virtually. Putting the diagnostic power into the hand of the user could be empowering for users self-management of their health, but would some sort of healthcare education be required to better enable the user (maybe something similar to a military national service… national service for health). Lastly, the data collected would be heaven for researchers, pushing forwards the innovations in Healthcare.
These types of healthcare platforms have the potential of reducing the strain on struggling health services all over the world, and it will be interesting to see the emergence and uptake of them in innovating the way healthcare is delivered.
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