Remote care for coronavirus — an idea whose time has come?
We live in a global economy and, when it comes to sharing information, we are more interconnected than ever before. But the nature of modern jobs and work mean that, when it comes to our loved ones, we are often caring for friends and family from a distance. That makes it hard for us to know how they are really doing when they become unwell or keep an eye on them when they have long-term conditions that need monitoring.
Imagine instead that you can keep track of what is happening with your elderly parents or a friend who is unwell, even if you are thousands of miles away. The advent of remote care and emerging technologies will create connected healthcare ecosystems that are going to bring huge societal benefits to all of us.
It could be as easy as your parent or friend having a pocket-sized device that can check all their vital signs (temperature, blood pressure etc) and use it to create a simple ‘health score’ which can be uploaded to a dashboard via an app. This now means that you — or in cases when the score is worrying — a professional can review it and decide if treatment is needed. And all without leaving the house.
Enter Poonyah Care, devised by businesswoman Deepti Atrish for precisely that reason — she wanted to care for her elderly mother in India while she was away in the UK. Using an AI-driven health score combined with wearable technology and an app, Poonyah’s solution empowers patients, carers and family to help monitor their own health. Such products and services reduce worry and, even more importantly, reduce the risks of our relative becoming unwell without us knowing, so helping people lead longer, more independent and healthier lives.
Think also of the benefits to our healthcare systems which are already struggling to cope with limited resources and the rise of an elderly population, many of whom have multiple health conditions. The UK currently spends around 9.6% of its GDP on healthcare and 55% of the NHS budget is spent on the over 85s. Looking outwards at similar demographic trends in other developed countries, it is therefore no surprise that the remote patient monitoring market is expected to grow nearly 48.8% per annum & reach US$31.326 billion by the end of 2023 globally.
More and more healthcare systems are encouraging greater prevention and self-care because it saves costs and staff resources but it also benefits us as patients because most of us would much rather be looked after at home than have to go into a doctor’s surgery or stay in a hospital. Enabling early discharge with remote monitoring reduces time spent in hospital and Poonyah’s clinically-proven algorithm has shown significant reductions in morbidity and mortality rates.
And even more so, in the midst of the current global public health crisis sparked by the arrival of the novel coronavirus, we can see that remote care truly is an idea whose time has come. Suddenly we have a product and service which allows patients to self-isolate whilst still being able to monitor key warning signs, such as a rise in body temperature, without any risk to the wider healthcare system or medical staff. We know that doctors and nurses are one of the groups at highest risk of exposure to the virus and we also know that trained medical staff will be at a premium as the outbreak spreads and becomes more serious, putting more pressure on already strained healthcare services.
Poonyah Care is already working with St Georges University of London to develop clinical trials into the use of its device for remote monitoring of the novel coronavirus in cases of self-isolating patients. The hope is that we can rapidly begin deployment of our product to help prevent the further spread of the disease in the UK.
Coronaviruses such as SARS, MERS and now COVID-19 are not going away and it seems likely that our health systems’ demand for devices which can help reduce and monitor the spread of these types of disease is only going to get more urgent in the years ahead.
‘Poonyah’ in Hindi means ‘good karma’. Poonyah Care’s product started out with the goal of helping our CEO Deepti take care of her elderly parents remotely — at a time when the arrival of a new coronavirus was a future event that we could not have foreseen. Yet it seems that the goal of widening access to remote care is a virtuous circle whose unintended effects will be felt much more widely than we originally realised. Seems like good karma indeed.