Dutch manufacturer Philips Electronics and Dutch insurer Achmea will start a trial to test a monitoring system that connects heart patients at home to doctors and nurses via their television, the companies said.
In recent months, Philips has aimed to free up money to invest in profitable medical systems, which have become the new growth engine of the company, by accelerating the sale of investments in unconsolidated companies.
By moving into the home, Philips hopes to mix its expertise as a consumer electronics vendor with its medical systems knowledge, and accelerate sales of new devices to consumers who are getting older and who are interested in staying healthy.
Unlisted health insurer Achmea hopes healthcare through home electronics will cut the rising health care bill it is facing with an ageing population. To keep a patient in a hospital for one day costs about 641 euros (approx. U.S. $790.70) in the Netherlands. The costs of set-top boxes as well as blood pressure, sugar, and weight measurement systems are well below these, leading to 10- to 15-percent overall cost reductions. This makes it appealing for insurers to subsidize the equipment.
Heart disease was chosen for the first major trial amongst 630 patients in eight hospitals in the Rotterdam area because essential statistics such as weight, heart rate, and blood pressure can be easily measured by the patients themselves.
The patients will feed the data into an information system, monitored by nurses, by using a TV set-top box with pre-installed software tailored to older patients. Nurses will call patients if the data sets off any alarms, while they will also send videos and other information about the disease or actions in upcoming hospital visits.
The information will be delivered to the set top box over a broadband Internet connection, to be provided by KPN if the patients do not have a Web connection already.
The Philips study is more elaborate than previous trials and will include all kinds of heart patients, including less severe cases. The pilot, starting in June, will last for 12 months. Over time, the Philips system, called Motiva, can be expanded with software and services for healthy people who want exercise schemes, dietary advice, or tips on how to fight stress and insomnia, said Jay Mazelsky, who in charge of new ventures at Philips Medical Systems.
New applications may not be subsidized, unless insurers find that certain disease prevention also saves them money. Philips is also talking to health companies and telecommunications providers in Spain, Britain, and the U.S. to set up similar deals.
"I expect more announcements this year," said Philips board member Gottfried Dutine. (Reuters)
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