Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland patients to benefit from remote health monitoring

Woman using pulse monitor
Image caption Devices connect to the My Medic unit wirelessly, in turn it sends the information to the health care provider

Patients in Northern Ireland with certain chronic conditions will soon be able to have routine daily health checks carried out in the privacy of their own homes.

Health Minister Michael McGimpsey has announced a new contract to enable the health service to begin using remote monitoring technology.

Patients will be able to have their vital signs, such as pulse and blood pressure tested at home on a daily basis and monitored centrally.

Those with heart and respiratory conditions, diabetes and people who have suffered a stroke will benefit from the technology.

The contract to provide the service was won by TF3, a consortium made up of the telehealth companies Tunstall, Fold and S3.

Patients will be given a small base station unit called a "My Medic", about the size of a clock radio.

Then, depending on the condition to be monitored, one or more peripherals will be provided to allow the patient to test their vitals. These peripherals range from blood pressure cuffs to electro-cardio grams to weighing scales.

Using wireless technology the devices then send the readings to the My Medic unit, which in turn relays the information to the health care provider.

Information about a patient's health will build up over time and trends can be identified. When a significant change in health trends occurs, the care provider can decide what action may be needed to remedy the situation.

'Earlier interventions'

Mr McGimpsey said telehealth would mean "a better experience and better outcomes" for many patients.

"With earlier interventions when they have a flare-up and fewer spells in hospital as a result," he said.

"With increasing numbers of people presenting with more and more complex needs and extremely high expectations of the health service, we must continue to provide the highest possible standard of care.

"There is no doubt that remote-telemonitoring is a prime example of the innovation that will be required."

Dr Eddie Rooney, from the Public Health Agency said the technology would give people more information and control over their health while allowing them to live independently in their own homes for longer.

"Families and carers will also benefit from the reassurance that chronic health conditions are being closely monitored on an ongoing basis," he said.

The new service has been supported by the European Centre for Connected Health, based in Belfast, the Public Health Agency, and Health Trust staff.