Case study: O2 Health

  • Click here to read the cover feature about consumer brands using technology to enter the health sector.
  • Low-tech health: ZubaBox and African telehealth, click here to read a Q+A with Anja Ffrench, marketing and communications director Computer Aid, and Fred Mweetwa, chief executive, Macha Works.
  • Hi-tech health: Ford, click here to read a Q+A with Pim van der Jagt, managing director Ford Research Centre.
At the heart of the NHS: O2 Health’s activities involve supplying technology to hospital and community staff

O2, best known as a mobile telecoms brand, is moving further into healthcare. In the second half of this year, O2 Health will launch a mobile telecare product that will be available both to medical organisations and to patients themselves.

Similar to the panic buttons given by NHS care services to elderly people in their homes, O2’s new product will function wherever the client wishes to take it, says O2 Health managing director Keith Nurcombe. It will also be capable of setting up exclusion zones to warn them if intruders enter their homes and of allowing carers to track their movements through global positioning system technology.

Nurcombe says: “As well as the frail and elderly, we will focus on young people with long-term conditions, who may want a level of reassurance and security around them. Traditionally they would not have been covered in the way an elderly, frail person is by the local authority or health authority.”

Offering this kind of product directly to patients is part of O2 Health’s eventual strategy to become known as a consumer-facing health brand. Until now, all its marketing has been targeted at the industry – primary care trusts, hospitals and practitioners.

The brand launched O2 Health in July 2010. This provides services to the NHS and private healthcare companies. Though parent company Telefónica has identified what it believes to be a lucrative market, it has required a move into a completely new area for the O2 brand.

Nurcombe explains: “It came about from a considerable level of research, interest and market examination by Telefónica UK. That resulted in an opportunity and it was decided the best way to exploit that was to bring in a team of people with health expertise.”

A big part of O2 Health’s activities so far involves supplying the NHS with technology to make its hospital and community staff more efficient. Examples include a digital pen, which allows midwives to make handwritten medical notes that are then converted into digital data and transmitted by a mobile phone on to hospital record systems.

In line with NHS reforms newly passed by the coalition government, O2 Health’s proposition is now to focus on the choice and convenience of the patient by serving them both direct and in collaboration with the public sector. Nurcombe predicts that this new focus will stimulate an expansion of the role of consumer brands in UK healthcare.

“I think you are already seeing more consumer brands involved in health that previously perhaps would not have been. The market situation and the fragmentation that is happening in the NHS will probably accelerate rather than slow down.”

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