Headlines: January 16th, 2004

Telehealthcare and telemedicine have the potential for bringing radical change to health and social services. Bringing patients and clinicians together through an electronic link gives the opportunity to completely re-think how services are delivered. Efficiency and innovation are put forward as reasons for developing telehealthcare, but patient’s voices are almost absent from the debate. A team from the Centre for Health Services Research, at the University of Newcastle, wants the views of patients and consumer advocacy groups, as well as professionals in the various fields, on what is needed from this area of innovation.The application of telemedicine systems to clinical practice in the NHS is driven by the thrust of modernisation but it remains contentious, constrained by ideas about the evidence-base for health care provision. The clinical techniques that must be deployed are relatively underdeveloped, and the technologies through which they are mobilised are themselves unstable. Regardless of this reality, all health authorities are now required to develop an ICT strategy that includes the application of telemedicine to local problems. To aid this process, the team are examining issues of innovation, risk and governance in the development of policy and practice in the application of these technologies.

The questionnaire seeking views is at http://www.ncl.ac.uk/random/telemedicine.html