Telecare and telehealth systems will be rolled out to the homes of three million people over the next five years as part of a plan to help patients and reduce costs, according to a recent announcement by Prime Minister David Cameron.
The ‘3 Million Lives’ campaign aims to enhance the lives of millions of people with chronic conditions, such as diabetes and heart disease, by accelerating the rollout of telecare and telehealth services across England. In support of the campaign, the Department of Health (DOH) has published headline findings from Whole Systems Demonstrator,1 an extensive trial of telecare and telehealth services delivered to 6,000 people.
Findings from the study showed a 45% reduction in mortality rates, 20% reduction in emergency admissions, 15% reduction in A&E visits, 14% reduction in elective admissions and 14% reduction in bed days.
Speaking at the launch of the Strategy for UK Life Sciences in London, Mr Cameron said the aim of the new campaign is to improve three million lives over the next five years. “This is going to make an extraordinary difference to people,” he said. “Diabetics taking their blood sugar levels at home – and having them checked by a nurse. Heart disease patients having their blood pressure and pulse rate checked – without leaving their home”.
“This is not just a good healthcare story. It’s going to put us miles ahead of other countries commercially too as part of our plan to make our NHS the driver of innovation in UK life sciences.”
SEHTA, the South East Health Technologies Alliance, has welcomed the announcement, having established its International Centre for Excellence in Telecare (ICE-T) in 2009. “This is a very significant announcement and commitment which we welcome with open arms,” says Dr David Parry, CEO of SEHTA. “Members of the ICE-T have for some time been developing a whole range of innovative products and services that are designed to help people live ways that suit them, their families, and those providing care”.
“Our members have also shown how telecare and telehealth can be of significant benefit, not just in terms of assisting people, but helping the NHS and other healthcare providers to achieve greater efficiencies and reduce their costs.”
“ICE-T members are ready to help deliver this commitment by government now that the case for telecare and telehealth has been proven through the Whole System Demonstrator,” he added.
Internet service improves care for newborns and chronically ill
The first dissertation2 in the new research field of e-health at Chalmers University of Technology (Gothenburg, Sweden) has been completed, evaluating a new internet service developed at the University (Care@Distance).
Anna Gund, who publicly defended her doctoral dissertation recently, has worked with the new internet service including, a website where the chronically ill, or parents to newborns that require more careful follow-up, regularly fill in measurement values and other data related to their state of health. Patients and care workers only need a computer or a smart phone with internet capability to use the system.
“Similar systems are tested now and again, with positive outcomes, but it seems to be hard to make them part of routine care,” says Gund. “We have developed a system based on the technology that is already used in most homes, and we believe that this can facilitate further dissemination”.
Care@Distance was tested in two groups: seniors with heart failure, and premature infants. Findings showed that staff actively embracing the technology and providing regular feedback on the information submitted by the patients was a key factor. “In cases where they have done so, patients were very positive and felt more secure and happy,” says Gund.
She has also performed a questionnaire survey regarding what care workers think about using telecare support in their work. It showed that they are generally very interested and have considerable confidence in the technology, but in practice some staff did not use the system as it was intended. Anna Gund intends to find out why this was the case in her future research.
1 Whole system demonstrator programme: Headline findings – December 2011. Department of Health, 2011. (Available from: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/PublicationsPolicyAndGuidance/DH_131684).
2 Gund A. On the design and evaluation of an eHealth system for management of patients in out-of-hospital care. Chalmers University of Technology, Gothenburg, Sweden 2011. (Available from: publications.lib.chalmers.se/records/fulltext/77891.pdf).
Published on: January 10, 2012
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