Telehealthcare Awareness Week runs this week with the aim of raising awareness of the increasingly important role technology plays in caring for patients in their homes. Telehealthcare is defined as “the remote exchange of data between a patient at home and their clinician(s) to assist in diagnosis and monitoring typically used to support patients with long term conditions”, and is an industry that is currently seeing a lot of innovation.
One key development is that of open, secure, web-based applications that are able to deliver easy, quick and streamlined communication in real time. Embedded within existing applications rather than as a stand alone tool, and enriched with transactional, historical or trend based data, this capability – called “contextual communications” – signifies a step-change in the delivery of telehealthcare.
For example, natural communication tools like video calling, rather than sitting in their own application (like Skype, for example) can be activated by simply pressing a button in an existing interface to create easy (or natural) and immediate face to face communication between patients and carers. Based on an open web standard called WebRTC, it only requires a recent web browser to work eliminating the complexity and frustration of app downloads, multiple user names and numbers and so on – a real challenge in utilising this kind of solution in telehealthcare markets where the elderly and infirm are key clients.
Contextual communications is allowing entirely new services to be created and developers, innovators and product designers are already busy building applications intending to make communications easy, integrated and immediate for those in need. For example, we’ve worked with some forward thinking units of the NHS who have already started to explore how they can revolutionise mental health provision to young people with remote counselling. By utilising their own application rather than relying on third party apps such as Skype, issues such as security, privacy and governance can be handled much more appropriately to the context of the sensitive communication taking place.
As more care shifts away from hospitals and into the community, housing associations that provide accommodation to vulnerable people are playing a more important role. Personal alarms, fall detectors and pull cords have been around for many years, but now new innovations and technical developments such as The Internet of Things (IoT) and the connected home are starting to dramatically improve experiences for those in need.
One housing association working with IPCortex is already improving daily contact for thousands of people with real time communication software. By analysing patterns of communication they can identify when the cognitive state of an individual is changing, and give a predictive assessment about the needs of every resident calling in to them before that call is even answered.
These sorts of developments can have a significant impact on how patients communicate with their support network, making interactions more natural and friction-free. Not only is it good for patients and the community, but these sorts of developments also encourage preventative health, and self management, ultimately reducing the growing burdens on the overstretched NHS.
To follow Telehealthcare Awareness Week follow @ukthcnews and #tecsaware on Twitter. Contact us to get more information about the examples discussed in this post, and to learn how we can help design telehealth contextual communications applications.