Tele-tech and mobile revolutionising global healthcare

Patient holding eye scanner Health monitoring devices are escaping the confines of GPs' surgeries, clinics and hospitals

There is a pressing need for more sustainable healthcare systems around the world.

Technology of Business

The costs of providing health services to ageing populations in developed economies are spiralling out of control, while resource depletion in developing economies is threatening the health of millions.

The global healthcare bill is now thought to top $6.5 trillion (£3.9tn) a year.

A key to more sustainable healthcare is encouraging people to take more control of their own health through the use of mobile and telehealth technologies, many experts and technology companies believe.

Consultancy PwC says the European Union (EU) alone could save 99bn euros (£80bn; $135bn) by 2017 if it adopted more mobile health - or "m-health" - solutions.

Efficiency gains from the better use of technology could allow 24 million more patients to be treated with the same number of doctors and healthcare facilities, the report concludes.

And about 93bn euros could be added to the EU's economic output if 18 million people with - or at risk from - chronic disease were helped to extend their working lives, it says.

Self health
Steven Dodsworth D Health's Steven Dodsworth believes mobile is key to sustainable healthcare

The popularity of smartphones, wearable gadgets and apps that can measure and record exercise levels, heart rate and calories burned, proves that many people are prepared to pay for technology that may benefit their health, says Steven Dodsworth, chief executive of digital healthcare consultancy D Health.

"Rather than producing expensive devices that are used in hospitals, we need technology products that people want, value and can afford," he says.

"They should be sold in consumer electronics shops, High Street pharmacies and supermarkets."

Samsung recently announced its latest wearable prototype health monitor - the Simband - as well as plans to develop a health data sharing platform, and many other technology companies are expanding into this lucrative space.

Informed is forearmed

Mobile gives people access to information they could not easily get before, with all the preventative potential that offers.

For example, in Cameroon, West Africa, half the population lives in rural areas and there is only one doctor for every 5,000 inhabitants.

But when it comes to mobile phones, half the population owns one.

So network operator Orange Cameroon has recently set up a text message based teleconsulting service called My Healthline together with the country's Ministry of Health.

This allows phone users to text anonymous questions about health issues, including HIV/AIDS, sexually transmitted diseases and contraception, to Cameroonian doctors and nurses, and to receive a confidential response within an hour.

Banner for My Healthline Information service My Healthline launched in Cameroon earlier this month

There are plenty of other similar m-health examples in developing economies around the world.

Doctor in the booth

Such relatively low-tech solutions can also be complemented by more sophisticated technologies.

For instance, Ohio-based start-up HealthSpot has developed self-contained teleconsulting booths that can be installed in office buildings and shopping centres, reducing the need to travel to doctors' surgeries for minor ailments.

HealthSpot's booths are equipped with high definition cameras, microphones and video screens so that patient and doctor can see and talk to each other.

HealthSpot booth HealthSpot booths are portable and can be installed in community centres, offices or shopping malls
Woman using otoscope Walk-in patients can use various devices, including an otoscope for examining ears

They also include a range of medical devices such as stethoscopes, thermometers and blood pressure cuffs. Patients can use these devices on themselves by following a doctor's instructions, and data from the devices is streamed to the doctor online.

Prescriptions can be generated and sent electronically to the pharmacy, and the data is integrated securely with local health records.

While the company is primarily rolling out the booths in the US - it recently announced a partnership with Cleveland Clinic - it envisages them being installed in communities around the world where local medical services are not available.

Distance healing

One of the main problems with existing health systems is that they were set up to deal with acute cases primarily, yet many people - particularly in ageing populations - suffer from chronic conditions that need more frequent care.

This puts greater stress on GP and hospital resources and leads to many unnecessary visits, with all the associated carbon emissions that entails.

Teleconsultations make obvious sense, therefore.

A study by the Academic Health Science Center in Canada found that 840 teleconsultations held over a six-month period resulted in a reduction of 185 tonnes of greenhouse gases, and that took into account the emissions associated with video conferencing energy consumption.

Elderly woman doing exercise People with chronic conditions can interact with clinicians via a TV equipped with a Microsoft Kinect box

Airedale NHS Foundation Trust in Yorkshire employs a teleconsultation system that uses standard video conferencing equipment to provide health services to 14,500 prison inmates.

The system was originally intended to reduce the costs of escorting prisoners to medical appointments, but it is now used to provide 24-hour consultative care remotely to inmates in 20 prisons.

This system has now been extended to care for chronically ill patients in their own homes or in nursing and residential care homes.

As well as reducing the amount of journeys GPs have to make, it has also led to a 45% drop in hospital admissions from care homes using the system.

Home help

In another example, technology services company Accenture helped set up a telehealth system called Teki in Spain's Basque region.

Patients with chronic diseases, such as arthritis and diabetes, use a Microsoft Xbox game console to see and talk to their doctors and medical staff via their television screens.

Aimee Chapple, Accenture Accenture's Aimie Chapple says giving people care at home is valuable

Patients can follow specific exercise regimes by copying animated avatars on the TV screen. As the Kinect tracks movement, the software can assess whether or not the patient is performing the exercise correctly and give a thumbs up or thumbs down.

Patients can also send real-time diagnostic data using monitoring gadgets that slip easily on to an index finger. The data is encrypted and stored securely at the other end to ensure confidentiality.

"There is something valuable in giving people care in their own homes and avoiding hospitals, especially if their immune system is low," says Aimie Chapple, Accenture's health practice leader.

The implementation of Teki has already saved the region's health authorities more than 40m euros (£33m) as a result of reduced hospital stays, says Accenture.

And by delivering healthcare to chronically ill patients in their own homes this way, the NHS could save up to £7bn a year, the company believes.

"There is certainly evidence of both health and financial benefits," she says.

'Promoting wellbeing'

Health is closely related to wellbeing, and technology can play a part here, too, believes D Health's Steven Dodsworth.

"Housing associations could offer an app that allows isolated people to press a button when they need their grass cutting or their shopping bringing in," he says.

"That could connect to people looking for work, and you then build a community around an isolated person. That promotes wellbeing, allows them to stay in their home longer, and delivers a social benefit, with simple technology as the enabler."

He says that state-funded providers are being far too slow to adopt new technologies, making it hard to prove the benefits on a large scale.

A sustainable health revolution is only likely to happen if technology companies start targeting their products directly at us, the end users, rather than the service providers, he argues.

More on This Story

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites

More Business stories


BBC Business Live


    It's a bad day for shares in London. The FTSE 100 is down 1.3%. Tesco has recovered a bit but is still nearly 4% lower. Rival supermarket Sainsbury has also been hit, falling 3.6%. And the pharmaceuticals firms Shire and AstraZeneca have also fallen, apparently as a result of tax changes in the US, that make their takeovers less likely.

    TRAVEL INSURANCE Via Twitter Kevin Peachey Personal finance reporter, BBC News

    tweets: "Does drinking alcohol on holiday make your travel insurance claim invalid? Find out here:"

    MINIMUM WAGE 11:53: Via Email

    Stephen Hodgson from Matlock writes in to comment on Labour plans to increase the minimum wage. He says: "The minimum wage is exacerbating the plight of the poor... by squeezing employers they are squeezing jobs out of the marketplace and making the lowest paid jobs the most insecure. If an employer pays £8 per hour then he has to charge his customer £16 to cover all his costs, who pays the £16? Well its the people on minimum wage."

    TESCO IN SOUTH KOREA 11:37: Via Email

    Tesco has confirmed to the BBC that it's subsidiary is being investigated in Korea: "We can confirm our South Korean business, Homeplus is under investigation regarding the handling of customer data. We take the protection of our customers' data extremely seriously and are co-operating with the investigation."

    LABOUR CONFERENCE Via Twitter Richard Westcott BBC transport correspondent

    tweets: "A Labour government will deliver the biggest reform of the railways since privatisation to deliver a better deal for taxpayers and passengers"

    BARCLAYS FINE 11:18: Via Email

    A Barclays spokesperson emails a response to the FCA fine: "In this matter Barclays fell short of what is expected... Barclays has subsequently enhanced its systems to resolve these issues and to ensure we have the requisite processes in place. No client has suffered any loss as a consequence of this weakness in our processes which existed prior to January 2012."


    Economist Howard Archer says the public sector borrowing figures have been "largely disappointing", reflecting muted earnings growth which is limiting income tax receipts. He adds that even without the accounting changes included in this year's set of figures "the chancellor has a mighty tough job to meet his fiscal targets for 2014/15".

    The logo of Dutch electronics giant Philips

    Dutch electronics firm Philips says it will split its company into two, creating a stand-alone lighting business while merging its consumer and healthcare divisions into a 15bn euro (£11.8bn) business. The firm says doing so will provide 100m euros of cost savings next year and a further 200m euros in 2016.

    BARCLAYS FINE 10:47:

    A bit more from the FCA here on the Barclays fine. The City watchdog says the fine reflects significant weaknesses in the systems and controls in Barclays' investment banking division between 2007 and 2012. Barclays failed to properly apply rules requiring it to keep client money separate from its own when opening 95 custody accounts in 21 countries. The rule is designed to protect customers in the event that the bank goes bust.

    BARCLAYS FINE Via Twitter Ben Thompson Business correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: "Re Barclays £38m fine by FCA - Barclays says it did not profit from issue and no customers lost out. Problem did not affect retail bank..."

    BARCLAYS FINE Breaking News

    Barclays bank has been fined a record £38m for putting £16.5bn of client assets at risk, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has confirmed.


    The public borrowing figures include a raft of accounting changes. So, for example, the auctions of the 3G and 4G mobile phone spectrums have had to be reclassified as rents rather than sales. The changes also move the liabilities from the Royal Mail pension scheme onto the Treasury's books. The government is keen to stress that the figures do not include any new debt, simply that the way it is being counted has changed.

    BORROWING Via Twitter Jonty Bloom Business correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: "These borrowing figures are interesting- lots more people in work but not much more income tax."


    The Treasury has been saying for a couple of months now that the deficit is likely to look worse in the early half of the financial year because of the rise in the number of self-employed people. It expects a rush of tax receipts in the last couple of months after those people complete their self-assessments in January 2015.


    The ONS figures show the current budget deficit - that's the difference between tax receipts coming into the the Treasury and the amount it has to borrow to fund public services - stood at £9.4bn in August (£100m lower than a year earlier) and at £36.4bn for the financial year to the end of August (versus £36.6bn a year ago).

    SUPERMARKETS Via Twitter Ben Thompson Business correspondent, BBC News Channel

    tweets: "Price wars between supermarkets is keeping prices flat, with some prices falling. Asda sales up 0.8%, Tesco sales down 4.5%, Aldi up 29.1%"

    Rail network

    One of the reasons for the increase in government borrowing is that Network Rail has been moved from the private sector into the public sector. So all its associated debt has been added to the government's books. The Treasury hasn't provided a Network Rail figure for this tax year but says: "the reclassification of Network Rail adds £1bn to £2bn onto borrowing in most years and £4.6bn in 2013/14."


    The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says total public sector net borrowing for this tax year is - so that's since April - stands at £45.4bn. That's already half chancellor George Osborne's target for the whole year.

    PUBLIC SECTOR BORROWING 09:31: Breaking News

    The government borrowed £11.6bn in August, official figures have shown. That's an increase of £0.7bn on the same month a year ago.


    The number of mortgages approved stood at 67,019 in August, the BBA says. That's below the six month average of 70,764 and also lower than the 69,307 in July. But August generally sees a slowdown in the property market.

    Graph showing mortgage lending since August 2000

    Mortgage lending rose 15% in August compared with the same month a year ago to £11.1bn, figures from the British Bankers' Association show. New affordability rules for mortgage borrowers introduced in April temporarily disrupted lending the BBA says. But today's figures suggest a more stable overall picture.


    The FTSE 100 is down almost 1% so far this morning, and there are some high-profile fallers. Tesco is down 4.7% so far, adding to its big losses yesterday. Mothercare has dropped a hefty 13% after announcing a £100m rights issue. And Tate & Lyle is down 18% after a profits warning.

    LABOUR CONFERENCE 09:15: Via Blog Robert Peston Economics editor

    blogs: "Soak the London metropolitan rich and other putative baddies to pay for the NHS. That will be the, perhaps, quaintly old-fashioned leftist and populist message of Ed Miliband's speech to Labour's conference today."

    EUROZONE 09:10: BBC News Channel
    News Channel

    Evelyn Herman from BNP Paribas tells the News Channel there were big moments of uncertainty over the summer which may have affected confidence in eurozone economies, including sanctions on Russia and more recently the Scottish referendum. But she says PMI numbers have not been a great indicator of growth in the eurozone over recent years, so we shouldn't read too much into them.

    EUROZONE 09:01:

    The latest PMI numbers have been released by Markit in the last hour. They suggest growing divergence between Germany and France, the eurozone's two biggest economies. France's private sector output has fallen again, while Germany's is growing at a faster rate. But it's a mixed picture - Germany's manufacturing sector has also slowed.


    More from Chuka Umunna, who says people are worried about whether young people will be able to afford housing. He says Labour wants to boost the number of people going into apprenticeships and the minimum wage to help young people.

    MOTHERCARE Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Mothercare announced plans for £100m rights issue at 7am. Share price now down 13%. #NotImpressed"


    The FTSE 100 is down after about half an hour of trading this morning, with Tesco again among the big fallers. The supermarket is down 2.6%. Elsewhere in Europe, the Dax in Frankfurt and the Cac 40 in Paris are both down about 0.5%.


    Labour shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna is now on Today. He says Ed Miliband's speech later today will not be anti-business. He says the biggest issue for business at the general election will be Britain's membership of the EU, and Labour will only call a referendum if there is a proposal to transfer further powers to Europe.

    LISTEN AGAIN 08:33: World Service

    Why are central European countries reporting falling gas supplies from Russia? Could this be the first sign of an impending winter energy stand-off as a result of the Ukraine crisis? Find out by listening to the Business Daily podcast from the World Service. Also in the programme, Lucy Kellaway asks whether gender and ethnic diversity in the boardroom are not always the great virtue they are made out to be.

    TESCO 08:24: Radio 5 live

    Labour's shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna tells Radio 5 live he is deeply troubled by Tesco's £250m overstated half year profits forecast. He says he hopes this hasn't been happening at Tesco for a period of time.

    TESCO Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Tesco share price down 47% over the past year"

    TATE & LYLE 08:14:

    Tate & Lyle's share price has also taken a hit - down 17% after its profits warning this morning.

    TESCO 08:10:

    Tesco's share price is down again this morning, suggesting the arrival of new CFO Alan Stewart this morning may not be enough to satisfy investors. It has fallen 2.22% to 1.98p in the first few minutes of trading.

    TATE & LYLE 08:06:

    Tate & Lyle has issued a profit warning this morning, blaming significant disruption to its supply chain and increased competition for its Splenda sucralose sweetener. Traders expect the company's shares to take a hit this morning.

    TESCO 07:57: BBC Breakfast

    Steve Dresser from Grocery Insight tells Breakfast the biggest concern for Tesco investors is the possibility of more skeletons in the closet. "The real fear for the City is if they go further back in the accounts and realise this was an ongoing practice," he says.

    TESCO 07:52:

    What will the market reaction be to Alan Stewart's early start as Tesco's finance director? Shares fell nearly 12% yesterday, wiping off more than £2bn from the value of the company. We'll find out what happens in about ten minutes when the market opens.

    OIL PRICES 07:43: BBC Radio 4
    Oil pump jacks pump oil at Al-Jbessa oil field in Al-Shaddadeh town of Al-Hasaka governorate,

    Nick Butler, a former adviser to BP and a visiting professor at Kings College London, says the price of oil - already 15% lower this year - could fall to as low as $80 a barrel. He says Saudi Arabia could end up as one of the big losers. Saudi Arabia "will be squeezed" by other oil producing nations, he says. "They will be putting pressure on them to reduce production. Saudi Arabia could be forced to cut production to stabilise the price at perhaps $80, perhaps $85 a barrel."

    TESCO Via Twitter Simon Jack Business correspondent, BBC News

    tweets: After uncomfortable moments yesterday when Dave lewis was asked he had a CFO or not, Alan Stewart starts today. M&S release him 2mth early.

    TESCO 07:32: Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    I am told that Alan Stewart's arrival came after a direct appeal from Dave Lewis to Marc Bolland who "graciously" allowed him to leave early.

    MOTHERCARE 07:25:

    Mothercare has announced plans to raise about £100m from investors. The company's chairman, Alan Parker, says the rights issue is a "pivotal step" and hopes it will return Mothercare's UK business to profitability.

    TESCO 07:23: Kamal Ahmed BBC Business editor

    The announcement that Alan Stewart is starting as Tesco's finance director today will bring some relief to investors. A business facing an accounting crisis with no chief financial officer was not exactly comfortable. Sir Richard Broadbent, the chairman, will hope that the move will quieten those who believe that he should consider his position.

    TESCO 07:17: BBC Breakfast

    Tesco's share price fell nearly 12% yesterday - that's £2.2bn off the value of the company. Kevin Doran from Brown Shipley tells Breakfast's Steph McGovern: "It's a significant fall because it's a permanent fall... this is a car crash happening in slow motion". He also says he would be "astonished" if this was the end of the bad news.

    A Jimmy Choo shoe

    Luxury shoes brand Jimmy Choo has confirmed its intention to float on the London Stock Exchange this morning. In a statement, chief executive Pierre Denis says the firm has "strong momentum" adding he is confident its future as a public company can only extend its reputation.

    TESCO 07:13:

    Here's a link to that (very short) statement from Tesco on Alan Stewart's arrival. The supermarket faced criticism after yesterday's revelations that it would be effectively running without a CFO for the rest of the year, had Mr Stewart started in December as originally planned. Will investors react positively to this announcement at the start of trading?

    TESCO 07:05: Breaking News

    Tesco has said this morning that its new chief financial officer Alan Stewart will join the company today. That's almost three months early.

    SUGAR Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent

    tweets: "Tate and Lyle: Disruption to supply chain in first half of the year has cost business £40m"

    Rico Hizon

    Some apparently good economic news from China, according to World Business Report. Activity in manufacturing unexpectedly picked up in September according to the latest figures, even as factory employment slumped. Rico Hizon in Singapore tells the programme that it is a big relief for investors after a string of negative news out of China in recent weeks.

    TESCO 06:59: BBC Radio 4

    Ms Palmer of Begbies Traynor tells Today when Laurie McIlwee resigned in April "it was allegedly due to some certain differences of opinion" between former chief executive Philip Clarke and Laurie McIlwee. "So it could well be that this issue goes that far back."

    Oil well

    The Rockefellers - the US industrial family that made a fortune out of oil in the late 19th century, is going to sell its investments in fossil fuels and reinvent itself in clean energy, according to US press reports. Rockefeller Brothers Fund, founded by the family heirs, has signed a pledge to get rid of fossil fuel assets.

    TESCO 06:42: BBC Radio 4

    More from retail analyst Julie Palmer on Tesco. She says there has been "some concern over a period of time that the Tesco board just hasn't been strong enough". Tesco relies a lot on non-executive directors, she adds. It's also not clear how long former chief financial officer Laurie McIlwee has been absent from the company following his resignation in April.

    TESCO 06:38: BBC Radio 4

    It looks like Tesco has "recognised the acceleration of payments from suppliers for in-store promotions and bonus payments, while deferring costs relating to food that is out of date and stock theft", Julie Palmer of Begbies Traynor tells Today (whatever this means). But she says it's not clear if they have broken accounting rules.

    LISTEN AGAIN Via Twitter Adam Parsons Business Correspondent
    LABOUR CONFERENCE 06:24: Radio 5 live

    British Chambers of Commerce boss John Longworth says Ed Balls' speech at the Labour party conference yesterday marked a "paradigm shift" in Labour's approach to business. He tells Wake Up to Money a slew of policy plans including cuts to business rates, infrastructure plans and a decision on Heathrow expansion are all good news. Suggestions that Labour is anti-business, he says, are "behind the curve".

    RATES RISE? 06:18: Radio 5 live

    The Bank of England should raise interest rates straight away according to Jim O'Neill, the economist and former chairman of Goldman Sachs Asset Management. He tells Wake Up to Money: "there's no reason not to move right now", and more "conventional" rates will be appropriate for the recovering economy.

    BARCLAYS FINE 06:10:
    A Barclays sign hangs outside a branch of the bank in the City of London

    Barclays Bank appears to have found itself in some regulatory hot water again according to the Financial Times. The paper reports the bank will later today be fined £38m for failing to keep client's money separate from its own at its investment arm. The fine, levied by the Financial Conduct Authority, would be a record for this type of misconduct.

    TESCO IN SOUTH KOREA 06:03: Radio 5 live

    Tesco's troubles follow it to South Korea, the BBC's Steven Evans in Seoul tells Wake Up to Money. Regulators there have opened an investigation into Homeplus - a local Tesco subsidiary with 400 stores. Allegations include the selling of customer data, and the suggestion that a BMW car, meant as a customer lottery prize ended up in the hands of a friend of the staff - so not related to Tesco's current UK problems.

    06:00: Edwin Lane Business reporter, BBC News

    There's also more on the Labour party conference, which continues today. Get in touch with us throughout the morning on or on Twitter @BBCBusiness.

    06:00: Matthew West Business Reporter

    Morning folks. This morning we have a trading update from Barclays bank as well as one from Punch Taverns. We also learned of 1,700 job losses at Phones 4U overnight. There are the latest set of public sector finances to examine later on. And there's bound to be more on Tesco's accounting irregularities. Stay with us.



  • Image of Ankor Wat using lidarJungle Atlantis

    How lasers have revealed an ancient city beneath the forest

  • Peaky Blinders publicity shotBrum do

    Why is the Birmingham accent so difficult to mimic?

  • Agents with the US Secret Service, such as this one, are responsible for guarding the presidentGuarding the guards

    White House break-in adds to Secret Service woes

  • Serhiy Hordiychuk fighting in eastern UkraineNew battle

    Ukraine's wounded forced to fight for artificial limbs

From BBC Capital


  • Islamic StateClick Watch

    Can the location of Islamic State militants be found with open source data?

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.