Distance delivery of healthcare by means of mobile phone technology, known as mHealth, could potentially save the NHS £750 million a year by reducing hospital admissions, Professor Lionel Tarassenko FREng told the audience for the Vodafone lecture, mHealth for 21st Century Healthcare.

Speaking at The Royal Academy of Engineering, Professor Tarassenko examined the economic viability of using mHealth to help people manage their long terms conditions and stay out of hospital. With 80% of primary care consultations in the UK relating to long-term conditions and patients with such conditions or their complications using over 60% of hospital days, this could amount to considerable saving in NHS resources as well as better patient care. Professor Tarassenko’s research had shown a net cost reduction of £440,000 per 1,000 patients based on a reduction in hospital admissions.

He looked at the potential impact of mHealth for people with long term conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), hypertension and diabetes. Empowering the patient to manage their own condition through communication with a “remote nurse” using shared data and their own mobile phone results in a reduction in unplanned hospital admissions, for example in a 57% reduction in a trial with COPD patients. mHealth will also facilitate the early discharge of patients from hospital through a home based monitoring programme.

With 90% of the UK population owning a mobile phone and a societal change towards people taking more charge of their treatment, mHealth is an application being gradually adopted by healthcare professionals, patients and Primary Care Trusts. Professor Lionel Tarassenko, Director of the Institute of Biomedical Engineering at the University of Oxford commented, “ mHealth is a multi-disciplinary venture that is here to stay as it will enable one of the key objectives of 21st century medicine to be met: the delivery of healthcare away from hospital and closer to the patient’s home.”

This lecture was one of a series of lectures in Mobile Telecommunications and Networks supported by Vodafone to recognise the innovations and technical significance made by engineers.

Notes for editors

  1. Founded in 1976, The Royal Academy of Engineering promotes the engineering and technological welfare of the country. Our fellowship - comprising the UK's most eminent engineers - provides the leadership and expertise for our activities, which focus on the relationships between engineering, technology, and the quality of life. As a national academy, we provide independent and impartial advice to Government; work to secure the next generation of engineers; and provide a voice for Britain's engineering community.

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