The number of people in the world over 60 is set to triple to two billion by 2050, according to figures by the United Nations.
Home care, hospitalisation and monitoring by general practitioners or district nurses will increase as a direct result. This will mean improvements to current health care products and services will be required to provide a more effi cient working environment for health care professionals.
With four billion mobile users globally, the technology is well known by the masses and can be used to provide cost savings, improved efficiency and a more mobile work force for this sector.
Home care is the segment within this market with the most growth potential for mobile technology. This is down to an ageing population and growing concerns around diabetes and heart conditions, which are problems faced in the UK – 300 million people in Europe and USA suffer from one or more of these diseases.
A report by Berg Insight claims that the home monitoring and care market was worth in excess of £2.6 billion in the UK in 2008 and is to grow by 10 per cent yearly. Berg Insight also suggests that out of those disease suff erers in Europe and USA, 25 per cent would benefit from existing wireless technology and 50 per cent would benefi t from handset integration of existing medical devices.
But, of course home care is just one aspect. There is an increasing amount of reliance on mobile technology in hospitals, care trusts and ambulance services.
The NHS employs around 1.2 million people, out of that, 600,000 are field workers needing mobility solutions. Potentially, 20 per cent of their day is tied up with administration because of a lack of correct resources for use on the field. And, within the public sector, there are various private consultants, hospitals and care staff for the mobile industry to also target.
Existing wireless technology in the form of mobile phones, Wi-Fi and pico cells are currently being implemented by healthcare professionals, while health care manufacturers are providing machine-to-machine (M2M) products, specifically monitors with embedded SIM cards to reduce the amount of administration work and time taken to check patients in and out of hospital.
In the future, advancements in health care monitoring will be in the form of evasive pills which react with enzymes to transmit a signal to a doctor’s mobile phone, sending a text message when a patient has taken a dose of medicine.
There will also be more in the way of M2M devices and SMS alerts for patients from GP surgeries and pharmacies to remind people about appointments and repeat prescriptions as well as waiting times. Near field communication (NFC) will also be improving home care, which will be trialled by networks.