UK mobile operator launches two health services

By: Jonah Comstock | Mar 18, 2013        

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O2 handsetsUK mobile operator O2, a subsidiary of Telefonica, recently announced two new mobile health programs: Help at Hand, an emergency response system sold directly to consumers, and Health at Home, a telehealth system marketed to providers.

Help at Hand is a monthly subscription service for people who are self-sufficient and mobile, but have a condition where loved ones might worry about them falling, becoming immobilized, or becoming confused. It provides the user with a specialized handset that has a number of safety features: it can call the support team at any time with the press of a button, alert them when the device is carried out of a preset “safe zone” area, detect falls and call for help, or automatically notify the support center when its battery is low. The call center than notifies a predetermined caregiver or family member if necessary.

Users can choose between two handsets: One, a cellphone-sized device designed to fit in a bag or pocket, is made by Netherlands-based SafeLinQ. Another wristworn handset is from Finnish company Everon. The service will cost £20 per month ($30) with an initial charge of £99 ($150) for the handset.

“The Help at Hand mobile care service gives people who have a health condition or feel vulnerable the confidence to get out and about safe in the knowledge that help is the press of a button away,” O2 Health Managing Director Nikki Flanders said in a statement. “This differs from traditional fixed telephone line ‘telecare’, which gives people help, but only in the confines of their home – trapping them indoors. Meanwhile, carers are reassured they can be called simply and easily if anything should go wrong. It’s all about independence for users and peace-of-mind for carers.”

TelecareAware noted that the service is interesting in that it’s not being marketed or advertised exclusively to the elderly. They also reported that an app-based version is in the works for those who already have smartphones and don’t wish to purchase an additional handset.

The other service O2 recently launched, Health at Home, is an end-to-end remote monitoring and telehealth system which includes connected monitoring devices like pulse oximeters, weight scales and blood pressure monitors, a cellular-connected tablet for patient use, and secure software for both the provider and patient. The devices transmit data to the tablet via Bluetooth and the patient can transfer that data to a secure server with the press of a button. Providers can log in and see the data, and analytics automatically alert providers if any vital signs go above or below preset levels. Patients have access to all their data as well, according to a statement from O2, and providers can send educational information over the system to patients.

The system will be sold to healthcare providers for a per patient, per month fee. O2 has done a trial of the software through North Somerset Community Partnership for patients with COPD. The company said the initial trial reduced the average length of hospital stays by 59 percent.

Telehealth is a burgeoning market in the UK, with the Department of Health promoting telehealth and telemedicine through its 3 Million Lives initiative. Over the past few months, MobiHealthNews has written about US telecom company Qualcomm launching their 2net ecosystem of remote monitoring devices in Europe, telehealth giant Bosch partnering with a UK university to study telemedicine, and AstraZeneca and Exco InTouch launching a pilot using mobile health to help COPD patients in the UK.