Headlines: April 28th, 2000

Research by The Defence Evaluation and Research Agency into portable equipment that can be used on the battlefield will soon benefit NHS patients. Work on developing equipment such as sensors that can monitor vital signs (heart, pulse rate etc) and provide other medical information that can that can then be relayed to a remote location, has progressed to the point where it can be used for non military purposes.The Treasury has made a grant of 10m pounds from the Capital Modernisation Fund to allow the equipment to be used by NHS patients in their homes as an alternative to spending time in a hospital. Initially trials will be restricted to a limited number of conditions such as coronary heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Patients will have all the equipment necessary for monitoring their condition, including a video link. The data would travel through the telephone line to whichever hospital was in charge of the patient’s treatment. The community nurse would play a vital role in providing ‘on the spot’ care.

The trial of remote treatment of patients has fundamental implications for the health service. In addition to greatly reduced costs, patients respond much better to treatment received in their homes and recovery rates should be much higher. Remote treatment also breaks the geographical link with the specialist. A patient could be treated from a centre of excellence located in any part of the country.