Aussie-first health project to improve lives and save money

FOR the first time in Australia, a health service putting internet-enabled medical devices in the homes of chronically ill people will be rolled out in Queensland.

West Moreton Hospital and Health Service, Queensland Health and medical technology company Royal Philips are preparing to roll out the four-year project in Ipswich.

The remote health monitoring service could save up to $40,000 a year per patient by reducing the need for hospitalisation and it could soon operate across Queensland.

Wi-Fi enabled devices such as blood pressure monitors, blood oxygen level readers and bodyweight scales will be installed in the homes of more than 200 Ipswich residents who have chronic heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and other serious ailments.

The devices will track each patient's condition, alerting authorities to any changes in their health.

The aim is to tackle minor health problems, in the patient's home, before they become major medical issues.

Philips Australia and New Zealand managing director Kevin Barrow said the savings could be massive.

"The sort of patients we're talking about often cost the health system about $40,000 per annum," he said.

"So if you can achieve better outcomes and do it in a cost-efficient manner it can actually make quite a difference to our health system.

"You can also do education through the wireless technology - for example education opportunities related to diet.

"We're targeting improved outcomes for the patient in a cost-efficient manner."

Mr Barrow said he hoped the project would one day operate across regional Queensland.

 "Obviously we wanted to design a model that is scalable," Mr Barrow said of the Ipswich roll-out.

"If it works for 200 it could work for 2000 or 3000 patients potentially.

"We would love to expand the program once we've proven that it can work.

"In a state like Queensland with its large rural and remote population, it would be a great state to able to scale that in."

WMHHS chief executive Sue McKee said the project could deliver "major health, social and economic benefits" across the state.

"The burden of chronic illness on patients, caregivers, healthcare providers, taxpayers and the community is rising exponentially as our population ages," Ms McKee said.

"A significant proportion of our hospital resources are used to treat a small percentage of the population with multiple chronic conditions.

"The program will leverage our respective expertise to transform the current, largely reactive, model of care."


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