It seems so simple, but the bureaucratic, logistical and regulatory hurdles in getting continuous patient monitoring up and running in the NHS and other hospitals around the world are quite considerable.
Luckily, Toumaz (LON:TMZ) is quite a long way down the track with its SensiumVitals wireless monitoring system – a lightweight disposable patch that is worn by patients on their chest, and which is described as “pioneering” in the space.
Chief executive Anthony Sethill explains.
“SensiumVitals provides the first warning of the deterioration of a patient,” he says. “If you are in a general ward observations currently take place every four-to-six hours. We are reducing it to two minutes.”
That’s quite a considerable improvement and will allow medical staff to intervene at a much earlier stage.
A study conducted at one hospital in America showed that SensiumVitals picked up deterioration in 12% of patients. For these patients, the early warnings provided by SensiumVitals reduced their hospital stay by an average of four days. That works out financially at around US$9,000 per person.
So, not only are the benefits to health very clear, but the financial savings are very considerable.
Indeed, a loose extrapolation of the data reveals that the NHS could save as much as £500 million in ongoing costs if SensiumVitals was implemented, after the product had been paid for.
But introducing a new product into the NHS is a long process, and although a number of leading clinicians already believe SensiumVitals to be of benefit, more trials are needed before the data can be regarded as conclusive.
Those trials are ongoing now.
“A number of trials are underway”, says Sethill. “Worldwide we have about 20 now.”
Included in their number is research going on at St James’s University Hospital, Leeds, and at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham.
Once these trials are complete the opportunity to address the market will be huge, although in the UK Sethill expects there will be a lot of legwork involved selling to individual trusts rather than closing one huge single deal.
That the appetite is there, there can be no doubt. It’s the individual technology that’s got to be right.
And this is where Toumaz has the advantage.
Because Toumaz is not just another simple start-up. On the contrary, the company has been up and running for many years developing components and software for digital radio, specialising in particular in wireless communications and systems engineering.
That’s why Sethill knows that in terms of patient monitoring, a Bluetooth solution is out of the question. The signal would simply cut out as the patient moved around the hospital.
He knows, too, how to put a network together that would work, from top to bottom.
That’s what Toumaz does for its customers in the digital audio space, customers who know a thing or two about audio technology, like Bowers & Wilkins and Philips.
“The market is fragmented into chips, systems, apps,” explains Sethill, “but we have a turnkey solution to provide all of it.
The same is true with SensiumVitals.
Toumaz will provide the monitoring devices, the parts that go into making up all the kit, as well as the software and infrastructure for the monitoring network, and an IT product to support it all.
The net result though will be nurses walking around with handheld devices being constantly updated on the wellbeing of their patients.
That’s a compelling prospect and one that’s likely to attract increasing attention from investors as the results of the trials start to come in.
In the meantime, Toumaz’s digital radio business continues to go from strength to strength, particularly in Germany and Scandinavia, where announcements about the termination of analogue signals have driven sales.
It’ll happen here too, says Sethill, though maybe not for a little while yet.
But the trend is there for all to see – with sales from Toumaz’s Frontier Silicon division, which includes the digital radio business, currently growing at about 25% a year.
And that rate of increase is likely to continue rather than to bottom out, as more and more new digital radios are manufactured and the world of analogue gradually slips away.
Broker Peel Hunt expects sales of £36.7mln this year and £59.4mln next year.