Patient Connect to expand remote health monitoring service

Remote health monitoring provider Patient Connect is working with secure messaging companies to expand the use of HL7 messaging when coupled with remote vital sign management, and is also expanding its service throughout south-east Queensland and the greater Sydney region.

Patient Connect provides 24/7 monitored medical alarms and Bluetooth-enabled individual home health monitoring for people with chronic illnesses. It has formed a partnership with medical deputising and after-hours care provider Family Care Medical Services to combine its remote health monitoring services with Family Care’s after-hours doctor home visiting service in south-east Queensland and in some parts of Sydney.

Patient Connect also has partnerships with daytime nursing services and can now offer a 24-hour continuum of integrated medical care for people suffering from chronic illness.

The remote health monitoring technology identifies early changes in a patient’s condition, facilitating medical intervention before the patient’s health deteriorates and thereby avoiding unnecessary hospitalisation, Patient Connect's managing director, Archie Tait, said.

He said the technology was well established in the UK and America but was not yet widespread in Australia, despite its obvious benefits.

“In the UK the Whole Systems Demonstrator Project, on which Patient Connect is based, demonstrated significant improvement in the health of patients with selected multiple chronic diseases along with substantial cost savings,” Mr Tait said.

“The numbers are dramatic: according to the British Medical Journal, when properly implemented, this technology can deliver a 15 per cent reduction in A&E visits, a 20 per cent reduction in emergency admissions, a 14 per cent reduction in elective admissions, a 14 per cent reduction in bed days and an extraordinary 45 per cent reduction in mortality rates.”

Using a remote health monitoring device, the patient is prompted to use the blood pressure cuff, scales or other peripherals and the data is transmitted via Bluetooth to a base unit. The data is sent via a SIM card embedded in the base unit and received at Patient Connect’s 24/7 monitored response centre.

“If the results are outside the parameters set by the regular GP or specialist, we begin implementing healthcare procedures either by contacting the patient’s regular GP, arranging a home visiting nurse or, if it’s after hours, the Family Care after-hours doctor service, which is bulk billed,” he said. “In an emergency we arrange an ambulance and the user always has a Patient Connect 24/7 monitored medical alarm for this purpose.”

Communication between healthcare providers is critical if remote health monitoring is to be reliable and effective, he said. Patient Connect and Family Care Medical Services use a custom-built encrypted software package called Rosetta, named after the Rosetta Stone as it is able to talk to the three separate parties – the primary GP, the nursing service and the after-hours home visiting doctor service.

“Rosetta is a cloud-based service that creates seamless communication between healthcare parties involved,” Mr Tait said. “All of Family Care Medical Services’ after-hours doctors have mobile devices connected with Rosetta. When an after-hours doctor visits a patient in their home, data and images are entered and sent back to the Rosetta system for processing against that patients’ electronic health record.

“Once the patient report is complete and verified, a medical report is then transmitted to the regular GP either by HL7 or fax, allowing GPs who have not started using HL7 yet to still participate in the system.

“Those who have adopted can be sent encrypted HL7 messages that integrate into their medical software. We are working with Argus, HealthLink and Global Health to offer this service to as many GPs as possible. The system will also be PCEHR compliant.”

Mr Tait said that medical alarms are usually purchased by the user or their families, are generally not expensive and help to maintain peace of mind at home. However, he acknowledged that the wider range of remote health monitoring systems that monitor chronic illness are still costly.

“Patient Connect is currently in active discussions with various government parties and private health insurers to broaden the offering, as remote health monitoring is expected to significantly reduce the costs associated with unnecessary hospitalisation and facilitate better long-term management of those who suffer from multiple chronic diseases,” he said.

Patient Connect predominantly uses devices manufactured by Tunstall, but Mr Tait said that the hardware industry for these technologies is rapidly changing as is the hardware available. “We have a great relationship with Tunstall, however as technology improves and costs are reduced, if there is a health insurer, government or private funder who wants an alternate lower cost solution, we are willing and able to go to market to look for a different solution that matches the client's needs.”

He said the company was currently in negotiations with a number of public and private providers to expand the service to the rest of the country.

“Australia has to look to technology to assist better healthcare for those who are house-bound or chronically ill in the future. It is no news that Australia’s struggle to provide long-term care solutions for people with multiple chronic illness is worsening.

“There are not enough hospital beds and the costs of reactive hospital based care are only increasing. Through home health monitoring we can attempt to change the way we care for people by offering in-home proactive-based health care rather than reactive hospital-based care.”

Posted in Australian eHealth

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