Joe Killen is International Business Development Director at Tunstall Healthcare, also working on synergy strategies for Health and Social Care convergence with Regional Governments. He was one of the key speakers of the Digital Health & Wellness Summit @ Mobile World Congress 2016.
You are currently International Business Development Director at Tunstall Healthcare & Director of Tunstall Televida Spain. How were your beginnings in the world of digital health?
I joined Tunstall Healthcare almost 20 years ago, where Tunstall was a UK-centric company with a business model focusing on Telecare technology sales mainly in the UK. With my background in Languages, Healthcare Economics, and Digital and Analogue Electronics, I have been fortunate to lead Tunstall´s international expansion into other geographical and sectorial markets such as Telehealthcare, and we are now working hard across many countries to support evolution into new ways of supporting demographic change and managing chronic diseases.
This year, for the third time in a row, you are participating in the Digital Health & Wellness Summit @ Mobile World Congress. What has been the evolution of the development and implementation of telemedicine in this period?
The most significant change has been the focus of European Health Systems on prevention, both in terms of healthcare and social care, as underscored by initiatives such as Horizon 2020 and the NHS Five Year Forward View. In the modern world, electronic health systems and proactive communications provide health and social care systems with data fluidity to design new solutions and merge into more cohesive, higher quality, and more cost-efficient services.
What products or innovations is Tunstall presenting at this year's Digital Health & Wellness Summit at Mobile World Congress?
We recognise that there is a key role for large-scale, innovative, yet well-proven proactive solutions provision focusing on prevention of chronic disease and coordination of health and social care. The traditional suppliers into the healthcare system remain focused on long-established business models. We are promoting a dynamic, high-value range of preventive solutions, combining a series of well-proven concepts based on Total Population Health Management and coordinated proactive Telecare solutions into a unique new model.
How do Tunstall telehealthcare services work in general terms?
Traditional telecare systems provide passive responses only to emergency situations. We have built Telecare services in Spain around providing proactive services – such as reminding elderly citizens to take flu vaccines in winter or plenty of fluids in heat waves in summer – greatly reducing hospital bed blocking and delaying take up of scarce and expensive resources such as residential care. We are now coordinating with Regional European Health Authorities and new preventive health solutions partners to expand the range of solutions available for proactive care, and we believe that European societies with demographic challenges and increase in chronic diseases have a strong need for preventive approaches.
How many users have Tunstall telecare service in Spain, Europe and all over the world?
There are around 500,000 people connected to Tunstall platforms in Spain, some 2,5 million in Europe, and over 3 million in total around the world.
Has the predisposition of public governments improved in order to hire telecare services in recent years? What are the main obstacles encountered?
In relation to other public services, Telecare has been strongly supported by public authorities, as a high-quality, and cost-efficient method of providing support for elderly citizens, though the rate of investment inevitably has been restrained since 2008. In recent months, we are noting a resurgence however, as Telehealthcare often enjoys priority for public investment, due to its high cost efficiencies.
What benefits can remote assistance provide in the treatment of chronic illnesses and active aging?
Health systems were designed decades ago around providing medical support for acute conditions in direct physical proximity - you break a leg, you go to hospital, they fix it, and you go home. The world has changed, and today´s demand for medical support are now mainly for chronic conditions - diabetes, cardio-vascular, pulmonary. Chronic patients live at home, not in hospitals, and the conditions are mostly prevalent in old-age. Modern society requires solutions to provide continuous medical support outside of the primary and secondary care systems, in the home, with remote monitoring and adjustment of treatments, and new technologies such as bio-medical sensors with intelligent home-hubs and software allow us to offer precisely those solutions, which are not only of higher quality, they are more cost-efficient and save money.
In your opinion, what is necessary to assess and regulate telemonitoring solutions?
Telecare monitoring is already a well regulated market, both in terms of technology standards and service delivery. Going forward, as Europe increasingly switches attention to prevention, using new technologies and services arising from Big Data analysis, wearables, and proactive services, it will be important to apply continuity from quality and data privacy standards from established professional practice.
What role do the ECHAlliance ecosystems have in the development and deployment of digital health solutions?
Everyone acknowledges that health systems today have been designed around acute care and are misaligned with demand, which is for chronic care. For transformation to take place, as all change-management experts recommend, one has to demonstrate that the current situation is unacceptable, and to set out an alternative. This requires vision, determination, and effective communication, key characteristics of ECHAlliance leadership. Also, new models require combinations of diverse skill-sets, being medical, social, IT, managerial, logistics, public and private, SME´s, multi-nationals. The ECHAlliance ecosystems prove time and again a unique capacity not only to bring together actors in a single forum, but also to provide all partners with roadmaps to implement plans.
You have said that healthcare and social care are in the process of converging. Do you think it is necessary a better coordination of these two areas?
Not so much necessary as inevitable! The traditional societal models based on independent health and social care systems which have grown organically around Europe since the Second World War are no longer economically viable. Public finances cannot match demand inflation into double figures for health and social care, and there are limits to efficiency savings within existing models, societies will be forced to change. There are great resistances - both from the supply and the demand side – to system change, but we are already working with pioneering health and social care leaders to set up what we believe will be the future models. It is an exciting and passionate journey, and we consider Mobile World Congress, European Connected Health Alliance, and Smart Health to be important catalysts in the process!
By Jose L. Cánovas