Science faction fantasy is coming true. Technological advances now being would enable monitoring of patients in their own homes, experts in Wales, UK hope.
Scientific advances will see patients being given "intelligent" medical devices within the next decade, they say.
The readings from these machines would then automatically be sent electronically to their nurse or doctor using state-of-the-art WiFi and computer technology.
The sophisticated system would also allow patients' health to be monitored, and the results sent to healthcare professionals via a mobile phone.
This advanced system of health care would reduce the amount of time patients with chronic diseases spend in and out of GP surgeries and hospitals, and give them a role in managing their own health.
It is hoped the system, called [email protected]
, which is being developed by experts at Cardiff University, will play a pivotal role in the early detection and even prevention of chronic conditions.
The project is an example of Wales' place at the forefront of the global drive to develop new technology and software to revolutionise the way healthcare is provided, says Madeleine Brindley writing in Western Mail
works by tracking patients' health in their homes by enabling such commonly used devices as blood glucose and blood pressure monitors to collect and transmit health data to their local clinic.
These devices would interact with a data "hub" in the patient's home and allow encrypted information to be sent direct to the clinician.
The system allows the healthcare professional to set upper and lower targets for each of the states monitored - for example blood pressure or weight - alerting them quickly to abnormalities in a patient's condition. It would also allow health professionals to track other variables, such as waist size, which could indicate whether a person is predisposed to certain conditions.
Dr Ed Conley, the healthcare ICT research lead at Cardiff University's diabetes research unit which is developing the system, said the technology could be available within a few years.
And Professor David R Owens, director of the Diabetes Research Unit at Cardiff University, said, "If implemented, this project will allow staff to better prioritise the use of their time and resources and to direct more effort towards those patients having difficulty self-managing or at higher risk of developing complications.
"By allowing patients' access to and control of their own data, they will be able to gain greater understanding of their condition."
John Crawford, healthcare solutions manager for computing giant IBM in the UK and Ireland, said, "With ever increasing pressures on acute healthcare services, many countries are starting to focus on how to keep people healthy, and manage chronic diseases, using new and more affordable models of healthcare delivery.
"In particular, supporting those with long-term conditions through the use of remote monitoring and patient feedback shows great promise across several disease types.
"This landmark project clearly demonstrates the potential of clinically-driven innovative thinking, underpinned by information technology, to transform how long-term conditions are managed, whilst improving the patient experience and outcomes."
Andy Misell, a spokesman for Diabetes UK Cymru, said, "This sort of new technology will be a great bonus for many people who wish to take advantage of it to free themselves from some of the restrictions of diabetes.
"We do need to remember, however, that not everyone will be willing or able to make use of it, and ensure that people still get face to face contact with healthcare professionals when they need it."