Technology to boost care at home
Two Stormont ministers have united to encourage the use of technology to help people with chronic illness manage their conditions at home.
Health minister Edwin Poots and enterprise minister Arlene Foster said the move could boost industry, while also helping patients.
They signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on the Connected Health initiative, but reassured Assembly members that the move would not be seen as a substitute for direct medical care when it was needed.
Mr Poots said: "Connected Health is quite a simple concept - by using companies with innovative technologies and products, we enable more patients to manage their condition at home which means fewer visits to hospital and provides opportunities for local companies to reap the rewards.
"By using technology in the right way, we enable patients and carers to monitor their condition at home, which leads to earlier intervention and reduces admissions to hospital.
"This is at the very heart of where our health service needs to go - we need to be more flexible, put the patient at the centre and ensure more people have the chance to stay at home with their families."
Mrs Foster said her department, along with Invest NI, had been working closely with the Department of Health to deliver economic and health benefits.
"We have been looking at the potential of Connected Health with a particular focus on dealing with chronic disease management," she said.
"This is an area of significance to healthcare and private sector organisations worldwide, given the spiralling costs of managing chronic disease, the poor outcomes and the significant investment being made by the private sector to address the issue."
Officials said that patients with chronic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart conditions, could input their readings into an online database which can be assessed by their health care worker.