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Sunday, 21 March 2010

Thinking beyond just the Internet - telehealth

Most of the time, when we hear about next generation access, we hear about faster downloads - particularly in relation to watching films (see Ofcom's history and vision of broadband published today). But that is not what next generation is about....

I know I have been a bit lax in writing publicly about my trip to the USA, and some of the many things I have learnt on my recent travels elsewhere, but all of this blogging and campaigning lark is done in my copious free time ;o) However, it seems that sharing this info becomes more timely and not less so, so here goes.

When building a FTTH network (or FTTB/FTTP etc) it is not about giving everyone faster access to t'Interweb. Far from it. What should be at the forefront of any network builder's mind should be the interconnectivity that network will create. Between users. Whether that user is a council, an individual citizen, a business, a doctor, the fire service, a community project, the village hall, the Highways gritter, or even a bus shelter.

A ubiquitous network is the key - it must reach, and interconnect, everyone.

Gordon Brown yesterday issued a statement, which amongst other things, talked about every citizen having access to all government services online. Unfortunately, instead of trying to K.I.S.S. once again the Government are endeavouring to add layers of complexity by including an IT project as well as infrastructure - an approach that will leave many with experience of govt IT projects climbing into a hot bath to get rid of the cold chills in their spine.

Let's deal on a small scale, rather than trying to think nationally for a moment. What are the services that your average citizen wants to access? Today's post is about telehealth.

There are huge environmental and economic savings, so telehealth is a key player. However, many of those involved in telehealth see it far too often purely from their own point of view - benefits, outputs, cost-savings - and far less about the experience and convenience for their 'clients', the patients. As an internet marketer, I am constantly telling my clients to step into the shoes of their website visitors and potential customers, become customer-centric.

The National Health Service needs to look at patient need, not how much it will save the NHS. Whilst creating increasingly complex websites that allow a patient to book a GP appointment may seem ideal to those in Whitehall, from out here it doesn't solve many of the problems we face.

Let's take some examples I have seen recently.

The Mayo Clinic in Florida and Arizona advises on pretty much every type of illness and disease. However, if you don't live in either of those two States, just raising the money or being able to travel there to be diagnosed, treated, learn to manage your health etc would count you out. Ergo, it could be seen to be exclusive. But, the Mayo Clinic don't want to be exclusive. They want everyone to be able to access the incredible range of expertise they offer. So, the solution? Work with FTTH providers to link up directly into people's homes. Bedbound? No worries. Talk directly to a consultant over a secure and private video link. Live in another State? No problem, click here.

Need to manage your diabetes wherever you are? Agoraphobic? Bipolar? Managing heart disease? Whatever your health situation, an online connection can make it easy.

Why leave home if you can't, physically, mentally or emotionally? Do your consultations online. Bipolar and can't even get out of bed today? You don't need to miss your appointment and add yet more guilt to the situation. Run an audio channel to your psych. Simples. Heart problem that needs regular monitoring? Do you need to be in a specialist unit or just a gym? OK, that'll be the latter - wire up the gym to the consultant so they can see real time stats from your work out. Need physio, but snowed in? Do your physio at home, watched over by your trainer on the TV.

At the moment, we are letting people miss appointments, and hence treatments, left, right and centre, for no good reason, and often pandering to the NHS instead of the patient's needs.

I have seen so many telehealth applications in the last few months, from bed sores to paraplegia being dealt with online. It allows people to maintain their dignity, independence, treatment schedules and health. Why sit in a hospital for hours waiting for a consultant or nurse whose Strategic Health Authority is running them ragged between three hospitals? Whilst you await your appointment (a mere 80 mile trip), they are stuck in a traffic jam 35 miles away, unable to work with anyone.

There are better ways to do this.

It is all very simple. It just needs fat pipes.

This is my HD TV channel, I am exercising my limbs after the car crash, without needing an ambulance to the hospital 40+ miles away and the stress of waiting for that, nor putting my life on standby for 1-2 days a week when you, my physiotherapist, are stuck in a different hospital at the far end of the county.

Should I lean more to the left, stretch that muscle more often than I am, or can I just join in a physio session with others as part of a community? Are there people who have been doing physio for so long now that your absence, and their presence, or a little snow, means I can still join in and do some exercise and have fun? We're all at home, but we are together. Is smiling with my new found friends on this HD TV Health network for the physio patients at xyz hospital a "bad thing"? Of course not!

Oh, and whilst you were stuck in the traffic jam, we have arranged a swimming session all together next week....cancel our rescheduled appointments.

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