Patients using telehealth to monitor their diabetesThis is what Billy McMurray, 67 from Bangor, Co. Down told Sean Donaghy, Director of eHealth & External Collaboration of Health and Social Care Board (HSCB) when he visited the Telemonitoring NI Centre today to see how technology is helping to support patients to manage their condition. The Centre operates a telemonitoring service for Northern Ireland on behalf of the Centre for Connected Health and Social Care (CCHSC), part of the Public Health Agency (PHA).

The Telemonitoring NI telehealth service allows patients with long-term conditions, such as diabetes, heart or respiratory illness, to test their vital signs including pulse, blood pressure and blood glucose at home on a daily basis. The information is monitored centrally and patients’ local healthcare professionals are alerted if readings deteriorate to an unacceptable level.

Telemonitoring NI also provides telecare services across Northern Ireland, providing continuous remote monitoring of users by means of sensors and alarms to enable them to continue living in their own home while minimising risks associated with falls and other emergencies.

Mr Donaghy was given a tour of the centre meeting members of the TF3 triage nursing team. He said: "I am pleased to be here today to see the Telemonitoring NI service in action and to be able to hear from Billy about his experience in using the telehealth service. From a commissioning perspective the HSCB and PHA are working together to promote the effective use of technology across all service provisions.”

“Transforming Your Care (TYC) review set out the road map for the reform of health and social care in Northern Ireland and Telemonitoring NI certainly fits with the direction of TYC – with the focus on organising care around the needs of the individual and the home as the hub of care for them. Technology like telecare support independent living and provide welcome reassurance to the individual as well as their carer. It is clear that this service is making a positive impact on the lives of many people in Northern Ireland."

Billy who is a person with type II diabetes used the Telemonitoring NI service for 6 months when he became insulin dependent in 2013. He used the service to monitor changes in his blood sugar levels after commencing his insulin regime, which can be daunting for a first time user. Together with the support and guidance from his Diabetes Specialist Nurse, Ruth Orr, who closely monitored his readings on a weekly basis, Billy said the service gave him the reassurance as a ‘new patient’ on insulin.

Ruth said, “I have found telemonitoring complements the work of the Diabetes Specialist Nurse, offering support and reassurance for some patients and for others it can be used as a motivational tool helping them recognise patterns and changes that are required in either diet or lifestyle.

Telemonitoring importantly enables educational opportunities through phone calls between the professional and patient, allowing time for reflection with opportunity for teaching and learning, by recognising how certain lifestyle or diet can affect blood sugars, and how insulin can be adjusted for various situations. This consequently empowers the patient and/or their carer, hence enabling and enhancing living with a long-term condition.”

During the visit, Mr Donaghy also met Hugh Harrison, a Respiratory Specialist Nurse, from South Eastern Trust; as well as Sandra Moore and Daphne Mulholland, midwives and Michelle Toland from the Belfast Trust. The midwives were also keen to share their knowledge in using telehealth as part of a regional PHA project “Weigh to a Healthy Pregnancy” to monitor gestational weight gain in women with a BMI > 40.

Image L-R: Heather Bamford – Fold, Sean Donaghy – HSCB, Billy McMurray – Patient