O2 Health launched the UK’s first telecare service built around mobile technology today (8 March 2012). The service, called Help at Hand, will be available from April to health and social care organisations.
Help at Hand is designed to expand telecare support beyond the boundaries of the home giving people with long term conditions the freedom, reassurance and support they need to go about their daily lives – outside of their immediate care environment.
The service has been developed specifically for health and social care settings where there is a major focus on using technology to improve care services, provide greater patient choice and manage healthcare resources more efficiently.
Keith Nurcombe, managing director of O2 Health, told Wireless that there are around 1.7 million on telecare systems, but only 1% of the available telecare solutions in the UK are mobile-based. That leaves many many people with long-term conditions dependent on fixed phone solutions linked to sensors in the house. By providing a fully mobile service O2 can provide a level of reassurance and comfort, as users know they are connected to the people and support they depend upon for care.
Users are provided with a discreet pendant or wristwatch, which connects them to a 24/7/365 alarm receiving centre with specially trained staff who can help. Features of the pendant or wristwatch include a fall down detector and GPS so the user’s location can be identified. Safe zones can also be defined; and if the individual moves out of this zone the receiving centre is alerted and staff can take the appropriate action. Guidelines for the user’s care are set up via the secure Help at Hand website.
Nurcombe explained: ‘The system is managed and interfaced through a website portal either by the end user or an authority. They can they can personalize the set up themselves by choosing who gets called and in what order. The information is automatically updated to the device. If an alarm goes off that information comes up on a page in the response centre run by G4S in Belfast, although the user will see a seamless O2 service. All customer services issues, such as a problem with the device, are dealt with through O2’s customer service centres.’
The Sim-based devices use GPS outdoors and O2’s GPRS network indoors to triangulate the position of the device, which talks to the network every four minutes unless an alarm is activated, when it responds immediately, said Nurcombe.
He said that O2 has undertaken a lot of at the back end systems to ensure the service is automated and can talk to O2’s network properly to minimize set up and every day usage for the end user.
‘It takes quite a significant bit of work and back office technology to pre-programme the devices and ensure the capability of the service,’ said Nurcombe. ‘But we have developed the whole service ourselves working with Telefónica Digital's Health Research & Development team in Granada. We have the scale and capability to bring it to market, but we don’t make the devices.’
Nurcombe said O2 had tested some 80 devices but the watch version by Evron and Safelink’s pendant proved to be the best. ‘They are Sim-enabled device with everything pre-packaged and pre-stocked so the customer doesn’t have to do anything other than charge it up and add their individual details, such as their name, address and next of kin. Either than can do this or the health authority can.’
The current version is targeted at the NHS and private care providers. They buy the device and a £20 a month tariff bolt-on that provides access to the response centre and customer care. Nurcombe added: ‘We will be launching a direct to consumer version later in the year and yes, you can assume that an app version for smartphones will follow for those that do not want a separate device.’
O2 said that the use of telecare is proven to help delay or avoid unnecessary admission to care homes, reduce emergency call outs, days in hospital and importantly reduce risk to the user. In addition, where the cost benefit of existing telecare solutions has been assessed, it is estimated that a total of £5.8m has been saved in care services – across just 1,722 service users in England.
Nurcombe said: ‘The health and social care landscape in the UK is changing rapidly – more people require long term care, resources are under pressure, patients are demanding more choice – providers are being asked to do a lot more with a lot less. We believe there is huge potential for technology to help – in terms of giving patients more independence as well as reducing the cost and resources required for building-based care.’
The Help at Hand service includes:
• A choice of specially designed devices that are discreet, easy to carry and connect individuals to an alarm receiving centre from anywhere in the UK with O2 mobile network coverage
• The secure Help at Hand website which allows users, carers or social care organisations to efficiently manage the user’s individual profile setting up bespoke guidelines based on their care requirements detailing how to react to any issues as and when they arise
• A UK-based alarm receiving centre available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (British Standards certified and Telecare Services Association code of practice compliant)
The benefits for councils include:
• The use of telecare monitoring systems is proven to result in delays in admission to care homes or avoidance altogether
• The use of telecare monitoring systems is proven to reduce risks to service users
• The use of telecare has been shown to reduce the need for day care services
• The use of telecare has been shown to reduce the level of additional home care services needed
The benefits for service users include:
• Service users’ ability to live independently in their own homes is increased
• Service users’ quality of life is improved
• Service users with telecare systems at home are generally released from hospital earlier if a stay has been necessary
• Service users feel safer and more secure in their own homes
The benefits for carers are:
• Carers feel less stressed and worried about their relatives (peace of mind)
• Carers have more freedom themselves