Telehealth and telecare save lives, provide a better experience for patients and cut costs. At least three million people with long term conditions could benefit and it is estimated that it could save around £1.2 billion over the next five years. Despite the benefits there are only about 5000 users. The healthcare culture is proving resistant to change.
An increasing number of telehealth and telecare devices and facilities have become available over the last few years and there have been many well publicised success stories. The Department for Health was slow to show an interest but in 2008 it launched the world’s largest randomised control trial involving 6191 participants and 238 GP practices across three locations in Cornwall, Kent and Newham.
The trial has shown how people with long term conditions can live more independently, reducing the time they have to spend in hospital and improving their quality of life. Findings from the trial show a 45 per cent reduction in mortality, a 21 per cent reduction in emergency admissions and a 15 per cent reduction in A&E visits. There has also been a 14 per cent reduction in bed days. Tariff costs have reduced by 8 per cent.
Telehealth and telecare use electronic equipment to read vital health signs such as pulse, weight, respiration and blood oxygen levels, which can be read remotely by health professionals in a different location. It means that people can stay in the comfort of their own homes with the peace of mind that a doctor or nurse will be alerted should there be a problem.
To encourage a change in culture the Department of Health will work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional organisations to bring the benefits of assistive technology to millions of people with long term conditions.