UK health officials push home monitoring

British health officials are all but banking on mobile and wireless technologies for patient self-monitoring as part of a 20-billion-pound ($31.6 billion) cost-savings plan for the National Health Service over the next five years.

"We want to provide information for patients to take control of their health and experiences inside the [NHS], which means doing things for themselves, if that's what they want to do," Department of Health CIO Christine Connelly said at a recent health IT conference, Computer Weekly reports.

One conference speaker pegged home monitoring-related savings from reduced hospital admissions, emergency care and readmissions at 50 million pounds ($78.9 million) for the five-year period. Another reportedly said that better, more consumer-friendly applications can remove some of the confusion often associated with jargon-laden health information, thus empowering patients to make better health decisions.

"I want patients to make more informed choices," Connelly added.

But a Gartner analyst expressed some skepticism about these rosy forecasts. "I don't see anything concrete coming out of the government to make [these things] happen at the moment," said Gartner research VP Jonathan Edwards. "For things like telemedicine to work you need a certain critical mass of people using applications and a clear idea of which organizations are going to reap the cost savings."

Also, a fragmented health system could hinder adoption of home monitoring technologies, according to Edwards, something that the planned decentralization of the NHS National Programme for IT could exacerbate. "To work it needs a tight relationship between the commissioners and providers of care. But as part of the changes in the NHS IT programme involve devolving power and responsibility down to local level, along with the abolition of Primary Care Trusts, it is questionable where the alignment and incentives [for self-monitoring] will come from," Edwards said.

For additional information:
- see this Computer Weekly story