Telehealth technologies of the future

Telecare and telehealth should be treated with caution,
By Dillan Yogendra
02:53 AM

Professor Stanton Newman told the conference that academics need time to explore this relatively new area fully: “It is important to recognize that evidence in healthcare occurs progressively and a careful analysis of research findings, both negative and positive, is crucial so that findings can be built on where appropriate.”

Directing his comments to an audience of practitioners, healthcare managers and policy makers, Newman also said that many of the studies available were too small to provide reliable information and called for more large-scale studies that consider the organizational challenges that telehealth and telecare present.

The use of telehealth and telecare technologies for the self-management of chronic diseases has become a hot topic in healthcare and, in 2011, Newman himself led the Department of Health’s Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) study, which showed, if delivered properly, telehealth can reduce mortality and the need for admissions to hospital and lower the number of bed-days spent in hospital, as well as the time spent in A&E.

Newman has been heavily involved in the recently launched Advancing Care Coordination and Telehealth Deployment (ACT) programme, which is an EU-funded, pan-European study that brings together healthcare authorities, clinical experts, industry partners and universities, including City, to explore the organisational and structural processes needed to implement care coordination and telehealth (CC&TH) services on a large scale.

In the EU, 10 million people suffer from heart failure, 20 million have chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and 60 million live with diabetes. Each year, these three conditions cost EU health systems around €125 billion. In England, the management of chronic conditions accounts for approximately 69% of all primary and acute care budgets.

However, CC&TH services have the potential to reduce the burden on healthcare systems significantly, but have not yet progressed much beyond pilots and test installations. It is hoped that the ACT programme will be able to overcome the barriers to implementation of CC&TH services, enabling the production of a best practice toolkit.

The ACT programme has been running for six months and Professor Newman has been encouraged by the progress it has made, he said: “Our five reference sites (Scotland, Groningen, Lombardia, Catalonia and Basque Country) have experience of delivering CC&TH and are likely to be able to provide evidence of what best practice should look like.

“The challenge for the ACT programme will be translating evidence into practice which is a complex process and in many cases will require not only a significant organizational change but also a behavior and attitudinal change for patients and clinicians alike.”

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