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Remote medical monitoring now serves 2.8 million patients with more to come

The Berg figures are for medical M2M instances - using dedicated devices for remote monitoring - not patients using personal mobile phones, tablets or PCs to communicate with the healthcare system. While the use of personal devices is expected to increase, Berg Insight is going after the growth prospects around integrated communication devices and the systems needed to support them. These, it claims, will grow at a compound annual growth rate of 26.9 percent between 2011 and 2017 to reach 9.4 million connections worldwide.

The number of devices with integrated cellular connectivity increased from 0.73 million in 2011 to about 1.03 million in 2012, and is projected to grow at 46.3 per cent to 7.1 million in 2017.

It's all part of a growing mHealth trend, says Lars Kurkinen, Telecom Analyst at Berg. “Widespread use of remote patient monitoring is still years away, but we are moving towards an age where mHealth solutions will become part of standard care pathways. Financial incentives are now coming into place and new mandates are formed that favourably affect the adoption of mHealth solutions. We believe 2013 will be a landmark year as the mHealth industry shifts into a strong growth phase that will last for many years to come.”

There are a number of factors pushing out this growth. In the US, says Berg, the progressive increases of readmission penalties set by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) will drive hospitals to adopt telehealth solutions for monitoring post-discharge patients.

In the UK, the positive results from the Whole System Demonstrator project led the National Health Service to issue a mandate for 100,000 additional patients to be monitored with telehealth solutions by March 2014.

In France, a new mandate on compliance monitoring will ensure that all new sleep therapy patients will be remotely monitored from 2013 onwards. This new mandate is expected to result in more than 600,000 connected sleep therapy devices by 2016.

The M2M applications are just one aspect of a growing 'medical' market in ICT, also involving patient records storage and access, and using texts, email and even social media to communicate with patients (and patients to medical professionals). In the UK at least, this push is unlikely to involve monolithic IT projects but rather local initiatives and 'point' investments in databases and communications systems.

For instance, the UK government has just announced an aspiration to make the UK National Health Service 'paperless' by the end of the decade by applying IT all over the place: digital records are to be shared with patients and health workers, ambulance drivers and so on, as they are needed.

The government wants to save £5 billion a year, which is nearly as much as the $6 billion wasted at the beginning of the last decade on a disastrous NHS database project which never worked properly and was eventually scrapped in 2011.

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