On Monday I attended the launch of Help at Hand a new O2 Health initiative from U.K telecommunications company, O2, intended to improve the lives of carers and sufferers of conditions that require care such as diabetes, Alzheimer’s and epilepsy. Help at Hand aims to provide this reassurance or peace-of-mind by connecting people to those they depend on for care.
The Help at Hand service comprises a special handset with a fall detector, GPS tracking, designated ‘safe zones’ and a special one-touch button that links to a 24/7 support centre that can contact loved ones, carers, or the emergency services if help is needed.
If someone suffering from a condition falls over, the handset, which is worn around the neck or in a pocket, alerts the assigned carer or family member. Another example would be if a person suffering from Alzheimer’s walks outside of an designated safe zone the handset using GPS will alert the carer of their location.
Nikki Flanders, Managing Director, O2 Health is quoted in the news release announcement saying, “The Help at Hand mobile care service gives people who have a health condition or feel vulnerable the confidence to get out and about safe in the knowledge that help is the press of a button away.
“This differs from traditional fixed telephone line ‘telecare’, which gives people help, but only in the confines of their home – trapping them indoors. Meanwhile, carers are reassured they can be called simply and easily if anything should go wrong. It’s all about independence for users and peace-of-mind for carers.”
According to Carers Trust, who were present at the event, there are seven million unpaid carers in the UK compromising of volunteers, friends and family members. O2 Health research found they collectively spend 196 million hours worrying about the people they’re caring for. The Help at Hand offering has been introduced to eleviate worry for carers and give peace-of-mind to those with a condition allowing them to leave their homes without worry.
Why no app you may ask
O2 Health has spent considerable time researching potential users and also conducted studies among 200 people that the Help at Hand service would benefit.
Through this analysis they found that they preferred a dedicated device as opposed to using a smartphone app. Not everyone uses smartphones so the cost investment of buying one coupled with the learning barrier of using it would disincentive some potential users of the service. An app hasn’t been ruled out completely however.
The Opportunity in Digital Health for Mobile Providers
According to O2 this is the UK’s first telecare service built around mobile technology but I suspect more mobile providers will follow suit. Mobile companies like O2 have a huge opportunity to take advantage of the oncoming digital health revolution in numerous ways. They have the scale, technology and the infrastructure to offer health and wellbeing services to new and current customers positioning themselves as a provider of healthcare as well as a communications company.
The Help at Hand service is just one of many ways in which O2 Health can help people live happier, healthier and longer lives, and create additional revenue streams for its business of course. It will be interesting to see how its offerings develop particularly in the consumer health space also. Kudos for taking a first mover advantage.