The UKâ€™s national weather service, the Met Office, has collaborated with medical specialists to develop a service aimed at improving the health of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
The Healthy Outlookâ„¢ service aims to reduce the number of COPD-related hospital admissions in England, which is currently some 100,000 a year. This could save Â£35m each winter.
The system is designed as a complete package aimed at helping COPD patients keep well during the winter. It includes an automated telephone service that warns patients when the weather or high levels of respiratory infections could lead to a worsening of symptoms.
The Met Office worked with Finnish e-health solution provider Medixine, which provided the IT infrastructure.
According to a Met Office spokesperson, automation had allowed the Healthy Outlook service to reduce practice workload while ensuring that people with COPD were alerted at the right time. Trials in Cornwall during winter 2006-7 showed that the service helped reduce hospital admissions by up to 52%.
Patients said it helped them better manage their condition with nine out of 10 patients surveyed saying they thought the automated telephone calls were helpful.
This winter the service is being extended to cover up to 5,000 people in Cornwall and the Met Office is offering the service to other primary care organisations in the UK.
Healthy Outlook received the IDC EMEA 2007 Award for ICT Innovation last month at the Information and Communication Technology Forum in Berlin.
The spokesperson said that with the previous manual service, only about 10% of calls conducted by nurses reached patients. But with the automated system, 85% of patients were reached without taking time away from nurses dealing with patient care.