Headlines: August 16th, 2004

The EU is helping to fund the development of a home monitoring device which will allow doctors to get alerts and regular updates on the condition of their patients. The Doc@HOMER service is being developed in a partnership between Estonia, Latvia and the UK. More than half the development costs of 1.2 million pounds are provided by the EU from the Information Society Technology Programme.The service is being trialled in the UK by two NHS trusts and used by patients who need regular monitoring for a number of medical conditions, including, chronic heart failure, asthma, diabetes, post-stroke care and surveillance, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and chronic respiratory disease.

The Doc@HOMER service operates through a hand held Data Collection and Interaction unit which sits on a cradle connected to the patient’s standard telephone line. With a large screen and a few large buttons, the unit summons the patient to his or her next data collection session by audible personalised tone. The patient then provides answers to questions and if instructed by the unit to do so, records ECG and other data simply by holding the unit for a short period and then returning it to its cradle. If additional sensors are being used such as blood glucose monitor, the patient may be instructed to take the appropriate measurement and enter it into the unit.

Collected data is sent to a secure database where it can be analysed for simple automated response to the patient, or, if there is an adverse trend the clinician is alerted.

The system reduces the time patents have to spend in doctor’s surgeries or hospitals undergoing tests and gives them greater control over the symptoms of their illness. The benefits to the doctor include continuous overview of the health status of the patient in their actual living environment and saving of time with face to face contacts.

Potential customers for the system include both public and private healthcare organisations, health conscious consumers, insurance companies and occupational health departments within large employers. Forecasts indicate that there will be around 300,000 users by 2007. The cost of a system for a patient is estimated at 120 pounds.