An estimated 900,000 people in the UK suffer from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
This common progressive lung disease, which typically affects middle-aged or elderly people, encompasses both chronic bronchitis and emphysema.
It causes acute breathlessness and can be exacerbated by the chilly winter air, which narrows the airways making it even harder to breathe.
The danger of developing a serious chest infection for COPD sufferers is also more prevalent when winter arrives. In fact, so serious is the threat that the MET Office even issues special alerts to tell them when a cold spell is forecast.
The nature of the condition means everyday life can be very difficult, which is why anything that can help is always good news.
That is where Watford-based firm Telehealth Solutions ‘HomePod’ comes in.
The remarkable piece of technology, slightly larger than the average hand-held computer game console, has been on the market for the past two years.
And it quickly secured an invaluable place in the frontline medical world across the UK, changing the lives of COPD sufferers by offering them more control over their own conditions.
Every day the HomePod prompts patients to answer a series to ascertain whether or not their condition is becoming worse. That information is sent to the patient’s GP via wireless internet either directly to a SurgeryPod at the local practice or to a Telehealth Solutions server, to which doctors also have access.
And should any adverse change in condition be detected the doctor is alerted immediately and can take action accordingly. This means problems are detected far earlier than ever before and, as such, patients are being spared the ordeal of a hospital admission.
The presence of the HomePod also means doctors and nurses have more time to spend treating the patient rather than asking questions on the state of their health. In addition it is saving money on out-of-hours care, hospital admissions and, in more remote island communities, helicopter evacuations to the mainland.
Telehealth Solutions has just won the Innovation and Improvement award at the Scottish Health Awards, alongside NHS Highland, for its role in a pioneering telehealth project on the Isle of Bute.
The pioneering project, established at the start of this year with very limited resources, has enjoyed phenomenal success since its inception.
A total of 15 HomePods were installed on Bute and the benefits were immediately apparent when, just weeks after the project went live, the first unplanned hospital admission was avoided.
Early evaluations would suggest that further admissions have been saved but a structured evaluation, carried out in partnership with the University of the Highlands and Islands, will shortly be conducted. Once the results are known the findings will be shared with other health authorities.
In Renfrewshire, the HomePod was so popular with patients at a Paisley surgery they were keen to hold on to them when the trial ended.
A total of 20 HomePods were rolled out to patients of Charleston Surgery in January and, since then, a number of hospital admissions have been avoided.
Dr Colin Reid, of the Charleston Medical Practice, has been extensively involved in the pilot scheme from the start. And he now believes the machine could be adapted to monitor other life-threatening conditions, including angina, diabetes and asthma.
Dr Reid also explained that, if a patient is admitted to hospital with COPD they are usually there for between 10-15 days, which costs hundreds of pounds.
Other sites where the HomePod is being adopted in the very near future include Thretford in Norfolk and Norwich and also Fife.
For more information on Telehealth Solutions please contact Lee Simpson or Martin Hunt at tartan Silk PR on 0131 524 9901 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
• Telehealth Solutions was founded in 2006 to bring the convergence of technology and changing clinical practice to the benefit of patients and clinicians. The company has grown rapidly and now has 20 employees who are dedicated to providing the most secure, scalable and robust methods for collecting information from patients, without the need for clinical intervention, and getting that information into the hands of the clinicians and carers who are looking after those patients.
Products in the THSL portfolio, which is explained in-depth on the firm’s website www.thsl.co.uk, include:
• Check-in Pod
• The Department of Health states that telehealth is the remote delivery of healthcare using electronic means of communication usually patient to clinician.
For example, a patient measuring their vital signs at home and this data being transmitted via a telehealth monitor to a clinician. The principal benefits of telehealth are enabling great professional focus on patients, reducing anxiety, anticipating and, therefore, avoiding crisis admissions to hospital and improving medication compliance. The patient also becomes more informed about their daily health and is an active partner in their own healthcare. This use of technology is particularly good for remote and rural areas.