Simon Arnold, UK and Ireland Managing Director for Tunstall and Director at TF3 Consortium (which comprises Tunstall, Fold and S3 Group) talks about Telemonitoring NI and how technology-enabled connected care is playing a key part in providing proactive, preventative and person-centred interventions in Northern Ireland.

Recently, I spoke at the Policy Forum for Northern Ireland about the work that we have been doing in providing the Telemonitoring NI service. This ground-breaking service began in December 2011, providing telehealth and telecare services across all five Health & Social Care Trusts in Northern Ireland. Crucially, Telemonitoring NI enables individuals to be at the centre of their care and promotes better outcomes for the user, carer and family members.

We have achieved much by working together in a long-term partnership between the Public Health Agency (Centre for Connected Health and Social Care), the five Health & Social Care Trusts, TF3 Consortium and front-line professionals to build the basis of a truly integrated and connected health eco-system for Northern Ireland. For people across the Trusts, there are some fundamental outcomes from the existing programme:

  • Reducing the unplanned use of GP, social care and hospital services
  • Maintaining independent living
  • Ensuring the appropriate intervention to slow down the rate at which a patient’s health deteriorates and enhance their quality of life

Changing pathways, stimulating self-care, improving lives

Nearly 3,000 patients from across all five Trusts have benefited from telehealth to date. That’s almost 750,000 monitored patient days in total, covering a range of conditions, such as COPD, stroke, diabetes and even weight management. These are people who are living with long-term conditions every day and where we are seeking a way together to improve their health and their quality of life. The telemonitoring model introduced in NI enables patients to benefit from the fact that every day they are able to measure their wellbeing, safe in the knowledge that their readings will be triaged from a clinical perspective.

Moreover, it is said that changing a pathway using technology in this way impacts the lives of many other people: family, friends, carers, GPs, nurses and so the list goes on. As such, we have a foundation to help enable health and care services to reach the maximum number of people in the most cost-effective way while stimulating self-care.

Clearly, it is important that a full and formal evaluation is undertaken and the Public Health Agency is leading this work to be completed by mid-2015 so that we can all clearly see the macro impact of the service.

A platform for integrating services

Now is the time to invest in new technologies of all types. Northern Ireland has done the hardest bit and created an underlying infrastructure. Now we need to make the most of it to offer support at all levels of need.

It is also a platform for integrating services using the delivery model in place and trusting relationship with patients and residents. Learning from others and linking the technology with telephony-based and physical services.

It is a real chance to start aligning services, some of which already exist, to meet the overall needs of people, not just one element. It is about leveraging what’s already in place for the future. As such, the potential is hugely exciting.

However, let us remember that telemonitoring is not the panacea. It has to be used in the right way for the right patients and integrated into care pathways. Importantly, it is absolutely not about the technology in itself; it’s about bringing together services to benefit everybody.

To date, the service has been highly successful. Tomorrow’s success will be determined by the ambition we have to create a truly connected health ecosystem right here. The challenge  is to progress this ambition and use what’s already in place!

Simon Arnold, UK and Ireland Managing Director, Tunstall Healthcare