Page last updated at 07:02 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

'Homepods' helping lung patients

By Eleanor Bradford
BBC Scotland health correspondent


The medical 'homepods' could monitor a variety of common conditions

Patients with lung problems on the Isle of Bute are using medical "homepods" to avoid being admitted to hospital.

The devices have been fitted in the homes of 15 patients who suffer from Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease - which causes breathing problems.

They allow clinicians to remotely monitor health and decide when hospital admission is required.

Health officials said the trial had cut air ambulance missions and the number of days patients spent in hospital.

Jim Simons, 72, is one of the patients on the island using a homepod.

We think the outlay we've already spent on the pods is worth it to keep people well in their own homes
Lynn Garrett
NHS Highland

Since using the device he has managed to avoid emergency hospital admissions.

"Before I had the machine I was up at the hospital two or three times a week," he said.

"Now if I get a bit uptight I'll enter the data and I usually get a phone call within an hour."

The homepod measures Jim's blood pressure, oxygen levels, weight and asks questions about his general health.

The data is fed back to a computer at a health centre on the island, where district nurse Sheena Ferguson keeps an eye on it.

She said: "We can see the answers to their questions and whether there's an exacerbation starting up.

"We'll promptly get some help for them - which is sometimes medical and sometimes just reassurance - so that they don't end up in hospital."

The homepod trial is being funded by NHS Highland and Argyll and Bute Council.

Airlift cost

Each device costs £1,100, but officials believe they are already paying for themselves.

Lynn Garrett, from NHS Highland, is managing the telehealth project for Argyll and Bute.

"We think the outlay we've already spent on the pods is worth it to keep people well in their own homes," she said.

"Bute is an island and the ferries don't run overnight, so, if someone becomes very unwell during the night they have to be airlifted off the island, which is a huge cost."

On Bute the homepods are only being used for patients with lung disease, but they can be used to monitor a variety of common conditions including heart disease and hypertension.

Similar projects are up and running in Fife and on the Isle of Luing.

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