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GPs issue telehealth warning


5 January 2012

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Telehealth programmes will fail unless a fully integrated healthcare system exists, GPs warn.

GPs and academics attending a Future Trends Round Table at the King’s Fund in December unanimously agreed it would be very difficult to implement telehealth at scale without fully integrated services.

“Based on our experience from the DH’s Whole System’s Demonstrator (WSD) trial, telehealth must be fully integrated into a patient’s care pathway,” said Dr Shah, GP Lead at Newham Health Partnership.

Telehealth programmes will fail unless a fully integrated healthcare system exists, GPs warn.

GPs and academics attending a Future Trends Round Table at the King’s Fund in December unanimously agreed it would be very difficult to implement telehealth at scale without fully integrated services.

“Based on our experience from the DH’s Whole System’s Demonstrator (WSD) trial, telehealth must be fully integrated into a patient’s care pathway,” said Dr Shah, GP Lead at Newham Health Partnership.

“Patients and their families must also be on board, and this takes time.

“We found that improved quality of life for patients and cost benefits to the commissioning group emerged after approximately six months.”

The warning has coincided with the launch of the government’s ‘Three Million Lives’ campaign, in which it has committed to make the use of telehealth and telecare programmes more widespread across England over the next five years.

It is claimed the campaign could lead to a potential net efficiency gain of around £1.2bn over the next five years.

“The trials of telehealth and telecare have 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,” said Care Services Minister Paul Burstow.

“I want to see more people across the country benefit from this sort of technology.”

There are currently around 5,000 telehealth users and 1.5 million pieces of telecare in use in England.

Do you support the govt’s campaign to increase the use of telehealth in England? Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

“The assumption behind this imply a level of access and ability to utilise often at odds with reality. Telehealth has much to offer, as my early research on NHS Direct “Don’t Shoot the Messenger” revealed, but the absence of visual and olfactory clues means the need to seek better narratives about complex conditions in individuals often compromised for example by pain in their capacity to communicate by their conditions, may not reveal slow deterioration when it happens. It is not about savings but about access which is not apparent without full integration rather than competition” – Prof Annabelle Mark, London

“There is a big leap from saying in the first paragraph that telehealth (if they did indeed mean ‘home-based patient monitoring’) will not work unless there is a fully integrated health system and, in the third paragraph, that telehealth should be integrated into care pathways for patients with specific conditions. The former may be highly improbable but the latter is highly possible with only a little co-operation from the interested parties” – Steve Hards, Editor, Telecare Aware

“Yes, in order to integrate Acute and Community Care it is essential but must be adequately resourced” – John Taylor, Bolton

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