NHS Scotland has awarded a contract to a provider of virtual healthcare in the UK to support the scaling up and mainstreaming of remote monitoring services across the country.

Under the three-year contract, UK company Inhealthcare will provide the technology to enable citizens to record relevant information in the comfort of their own homes and relay readings to health teams for analysis.

The “tried-and-tested” approach will allow patients to play a greater role in the management of their health and support clinicians in their diagnosis, treatment and care decisions. 

The award supports the Scottish Government’s Digital Health and Care Strategy to “transform and enhance” the health and wellbeing of citizens through the use of digital technology. 

According to Inhealthcare, advantages for citizens include better access to services, less time spent attending and travelling to appointments, and increased confidence and capacity to self-manage conditions and care.

Benefits for health and care services include better availability of data to assist early intervention, greater adherence to treatment, enhanced provision of care, productivity gains from less travel, more timely face-to-face contact with patients, more effective and efficient use of NHS resources, and reduced hospital admissions. 

It is also hoped that the remote monitoring service will help citizens to access and take part in a wide range of local health and care services in primary, ambulatory and community settings.

It enables ‘asynchronous’ consultation – where patients and professionals exchange information at different times – which can cut waiting times for specialist care and help avoid unnecessary referrals. 

The technology is being rolled out across Scotland’s health boards. Typically, patients receive a message prompting them to record health readings.

They submit these readings via a choice of fully inclusive communication channels, from mobile app to landline telephone. The service analyses readings and trends against a baseline and generates alerts and follow-on messaging when appropriate.

Clinicians can review the readings and history and assess the individual’s condition. The service can be used to manage illnesses including hypertension, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, heart disease, diabetes, depression, malnutrition, cancer and Covid. 

Georgia Nelson, senior business development manager at Inhealthcare, said: “After a very rigorous procurement process, we are delighted to have won this contract to support the scaling up and mainstreaming of remote monitoring services across Scotland.

“It represents another major validation of technology-enabled care and provides the foundations for many more citizens to benefit from improved health and wellbeing at home and better quality of life.”

Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare, said: “Just as digital technology was at the forefront of our response to the pandemic, it will be central to how we rebuild and remobilise the health and social care system as part of the recovery from Covid.

“It was a pleasure to work with NHS National Services Scotland during this process and we look forward to delivering life-changing services for the people of Scotland. I am very proud of our team’s inspirational efforts to support the NHS.”

An evaluation found that Scotland’s remote health pathway for people with Covid-19 symptoms improved access to NHS services and could be safely rolled out to help others.

The 2021 study commissioned by the Scottish Government also found that patients had positive experiences of using the system, which was built using Inhealthcare’s technology, and that staff felt supported and engaged.

The research indicated that the remote health pathway contributed to increased self-management among patients, improved resource efficiency, and reduced health inequalities with more than twice as many people from disadvantaged areas using the system.