Telehealth market set for boom

Using technology to deliver healthcare remotely will be a booming market by 2012, worth some £4 billion globally, according to new research.

The drive to cut costs while improving medical care is set to drive the worth of the telehealth market to $8 billion (4 billion) by 2012, according to research by Datamonitor.

The sector is set to see an annual growth rate of 56 per cent, compared to 9.9 per cent for the whole clinical market.

"Healthcare organisations are facing increasing costs and pressures to increase care," said the report's author, Christine Chang. "With a rising elderly population... we're looking for ways to improve care in cost effective ways."

One possible answer is telehealth, the use of networks and technology to provide treatment and care outside of traditional clinics and hospitals. The most common example is home monitoring, such as enabling diabetics to send in daily data about their blood sugar levels to clinicians via a telephone or internet connection. "It's about daily monitoring instead of waiting until people get sick," she said.

Other uses include video conferencing, so doctors can see a patient without either needing to travel, and tracking health information through mobile phones and the internet. Eventually, it could include technology such as remote robotic surgery, said Chang.

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