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Though individual rare diseases (RDs) affect less than five in every 10,000 people, the aggregate number of individuals suffering from a rare disease is estimated to be nearly 400 million worldwide. The lack of efficient …

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Home » EU Health, Health

Towards a Connected Health Care Model

Submitted by on 06 Oct 2011 – 15:44

Connected HealthcareJosé Perdomo, Director of Global eHealth Business Unit at Telefónica

The single biggest challenge facing the global healthcare sector is an ageing population that is living with disease for longer periods of time. By 2050, 20 to 30 percent of the world’s population, depending on the region, will be over 65. As the ageing population grows, the number of chronic conditions grows with it.

Indeed, these conditions already account for around 70 % of healthcare costs. The EU spends over 9% of EU GDP on health, and this is set to rise even further putting an ever greater pressure on our health systems. The whole health sector is facing an unsustainable situation, and has to cope with an enormous challenge.

A tremendous transformation is required. Information and communication technologies combined with the great potential for innovation that can be applied to the healthcare sector are key to create an efficient and successful healthcare model.

Telefónica is one of the world’s leading integrated operators in the telecommunication sector, providing communication, information and entertainment services, with a global presence. It operates in 25 countries. As of June 2011, Telefónica’s total number of customers amounted to 295 millions.

As a pioneer, the Group has an eHealth global division that was created and launched in 2010, with the mission of finding better ways to deliver healthcare and social services. Telefónica believes that telecommunication companies have a significant role to play in the provision of healthcare contributing to accelerate the sector change.

“The next wave of transformation in the healthcare sector will be based on communications, and we’re the ones who know how to connect people.” Jose Perdomo says, as Director of the Global e-Health Business Unit. In this sense, Telefónica’s investment in eHealth has been considerable, with a dedicated research and development facility in Granada, Spain.

The opportunity in this transformation process is big but so is the challenge. The healthcare model needs to change in order to enable health systems to be more connected, integrated and patient-centred at the same time. Today, Telefónica is building on these foundations with new emerging eHealth services that are based not only in communications but also on the capability to integrate partner ecosystems, and on a strong and proven experience in large scale transformation projects.

Telehealth has an exciting contribution to make in healthcare models. It enables chronic patients the best access to quality medical services from the comfort of their own home and wherever they go through remote care. By remote monitoring the patients, the number of hospital admissions and days spent in hospital are drastically reduced and these have a great reflection in costs savings.

Therefore, the chronic disease management service is the flagship of Telefónica’s offering. It kits the patient out with a connected tablet device, as well as bio-medical measurement devices that feed health data back to healthcare professionals. Patients are given multi-channel communication with medical staff. This is an “end to end” service.

Dr. Comín, cardiologist at the prestigious Hospital del Mar Research Institute in Barcelona, is working with Telefónica in a programme remotely monitoring those patients with high-risk chronic heart failure and the evidence is clear. “[Patients] can reach professionals very quickly and easily, so there’s no need to transfer patients to other hospitals. At the same time the tool enhances self-care behaviour, because the patient takes care of his own condition. In terms of cost-effectiveness, most of the interventions are made by nurses who have back up from cardiologists, it saves time as one nurse can take care of many patients at the same time.”, the doctor says.

Telefónica is committed to quality and innovation and is developing groundbreaking new products and services that will enhance the delivery of an integrated health and social care model.  By joining up, telehealth and telecare, empower older people and those with long-term needs, to lead an independent life with reassurance.

Another area of focus for Telefónica includes a wide range of telecare services to monitor elderly or young people, who are tracked through their mobile phone and a web interface.

Integrated care would be impossible without the efficient work of doctors, nurses and carers. In these terms, the sector in Europe is facing a serious shortage of skilled healthcare professionals. Thanks to mobile productivity tools, and telehealth networks supported by telediagnostic and telepresence services, a cost-effective quality increase is easier to achieve.

Currently, people demand more information and they use the Internet, smart phones and other technologies more and more to look for information on health. Patients and their families have the need to share their experiences and comments in order to learn, to improve their treatments.

To cope with this growing pressure, healthcare systems can use demand management services based on CRM tools. Their appeal lies in the potential for cost savings, and their ability to reach large numbers of patients that are able to access the best medical expertise, receiving the correct response for their needs.

Telefonica’s offer is unique in providing end to end network based services, delivered in pay per use models. We are willing to share the risk with committed and active stakeholders to contribute to this transformation of the healthcare models. Working together we can jointly drive the change and shape the future of a digital health sector.