The case for Telehealth is compelling: using technology to deliver health-related services and information, we can care for more people in their own homes while reducing surgery visits and hospital admissions.
In 2010 the Healthcare Without Walls report predicted that Telehealth could save the NHS over £2bn per year.
During the same year Stoke-on-Trent PCT approached us with a problem and an idea. They had been trialling Telehealth for COPD patients using dedicated hardware in the patients' homes. They had seen positive results but some obstacles overshadowed the trials.
Firstly, the devices were too expensive to afford a large-scale implementation. It was great that they recorded positive results but unless the benefits could be taken to a wider patient group (tens of thousands of patients) the cumulative benefit would remain small.
Secondly, alerts prompted by unfavourable patient results were being triggered too freely. Clinicians were bombarded with unsuitable information.
Their idea was simple: rather than purchase and rely on specialist telehealth hardware, let's get patients to text their vital statistics using their own mobile phones.
Let's create a system flexible enough to send reminders and health tips that are personalised for each individual patient. These will be text messages encouraging them to take a more active role in their own healthcare.
Finally, let's build a system that is true aid to a Clinician's already busy schedule.
Together, we made Florence.
As ubiquitous and user-friendly as technology gets.
We don't all carry the latest smartphone and we don't all understand how to install iPhone apps – but text messaging is, perhaps, the most basic function of all mobile phones. It's accessible, usable and cheap.