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Government looks to reboot telehealth in the NHS

NHS England is launching a major new drive on telehealth and telecare with a series of pilots testing out new devices on the elderly and people with long-term conditions.

The first wave of the NHS Innovation ‘Test Beds’ scheme – involving collaborations with technology companies including Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences), IBM and Philips – will run at seven pilot programmes in different areas of England.

One of the schemes, in the west of England, will look at equipping patients with diabetes with remote monitoring and coaching technology to try to help them manage their condition better.

Elsewhere, a pilot in Rochdale is looking at use of telecare and remote devices to deliver more proactive care to elderly people at risk from critical complications of conditions like COPD and heart failure.

And in Birmingham a project is using technology and apps to help people at risk of serious mental illness to manage their condition, and get specialist help in a crisis.

The programme is a joint effort by NHS England, the Department of Health’s Office for Life Science and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport.

Announcing the scheme at the World Economic Forum in Davos, NHS England chief executive Simon Stevens was expected to say: ‘Over the next decade, major health gains won’t just come from a few “miracle cures”, but also from combining diverse breakthroughs in fields such as biosensors, medtech and drug discovery, mobile communications and AI computing.

‘Our new NHS Test Beds programme aims to cut through the hype and test the practical benefits for patients when we bring together some of these most promising technologies in receptive environments inside the world’s largest public, integrated health service.’

The launch comes after NHS England ditched an earlier Government programme aimed at getting 100,000 patients managed with telehealth by 2013, following a review of the impact of the scheme at seven pathfinder sites.

A Pulse investigation had shown the pathfinders struggled to get their schemes off the ground amid concerns about the cost-effectiveness of telehealth.


Readers' comments (15)

  • Why are we doing this again? I love technology but telehealth is very limited in what it can achieve. I am tired of supporters of it telling me how useful daily BP and pulse measurements are. They just aren't. Just what conditions do they think can be managed like this?
    This is putting money in corporate pockets whilst denying general practice the help it needs.
    We must also be mindful that if we replace human contacts with tablets, there is a real risk that lonliness and isolation may increase.

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  • NHS and IT all over again. It's like I'm trapped in the same 18 months again and again and again.

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  • In Barking they are running pilot project into testing dog poo left in the street for DNA so that owners can be fined.
    Superficially a great idea, especially as the company involved has shown a 90% reduction in street fowling.
    When you look at the details this is a 90% reduction of tiny amounts of fouling in gated communities in America. Hardly a real world example.
    The relevance of this?
    Telehealth and Telecare are fantastic in tightly controlled environments but untested in the real world. Do not waste money on this until we can see real benefits

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  • How ironic that they should test dog poo in Barking lol! Maybe they should do a mental health assesment on Jeremy Hunt there too.

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  • Maybe they should test the DNA of *unt so the producers can be fined!

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  • "...involving collaborations with technology companies including Verily (formerly Google Life Sciences)"

    Would this be the same Google that we should feel grateful to for finally paying some back tax?
    Its interesting to see who the Government likes to do business with.

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  • This is crazy where there is no community resources to dealing with NUMBERS of blood pressure,pulse, etc etc - (false positives) results in 999 calls as these are dumped on the GP who usually is busy in surgery consulations. STOP IT - GPS' CANNOT COPE NOR CAN UNNECESSARY HOSPITALISATION OR 999 CALLS.

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  • Never mind that the NHS is falling apart, lets buy some nice shiny gadgets and bung a big wodge of cash to our mates in the IT business world.

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  • Well organised telehealth is fantastic. We are much better at running on time and our patients don't have to spend a lot of time coming to physically see us. The key is good organisation. Well motivated patients paying for consultations is a bonus.
    Seems to work well in Western Australia when a patient from Broome for example, has to drive for 2 days just to get to see a specialist doctor in Perth. As ever the key issue is funding.
    In the UK with a monopoly employer and little private GP the situation is different. Yet in the UK patients complain that they cannot get a GP appointment for three weeks.
    You can do amazing things with telemedicine. A selfied possible melanoma in our sun kissed country can get a report within two working days. Sometimes within minutes, from a specialist dermatologist. In the UK repeat scripts and self monitoring with results uploading to the cloud could reduce the visits to a GP by half in a well controlled patients with cardiovascular disease, some face to face contact is necessary, of course, but not every single time. The issue would be this would increase demand on already over worked GPs, and the system would be abused.
    Realistically in the UK this could only be offered as a user pays system. these practices abound in the US and Australia and probably not so much in the UK. They are not difficult to set up and aren't covered by the NHS so this could be an extra service you provide for your patients that they pay for privately, or they could just come and see you for nothing. Worth a thought.

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  • Dr Cooke, the sort of telehealth you are talking about is different to the sort we are having forced upon us here.
    What we get is a machine that will measure oxygen sats for example in a patient with COPD, every day, and give them a questionnaire daily asking about sputum amount and colour. It then sends an alert to the practice if they go outside a target range. for example if they do their sats when they have just walked up the stairs. So then we get a fax saying they have low sats, we phone them and they say they did it when they had just walked up the stairs, they do it again and it is fine.
    It creates enormous amounts of noise and does nothing useful. A daily sats measurement on COPD is a waste of time. It is only useful if they actually feel unwell and can then measure their sats and tell us what they are, which would be potentially useful in triaging how urgently to see them.
    We do also do some of the type of telehealth you are on about - especially sending photos to dermatologists. That side of it is fantastic, and unlikely to stop anytime soon. It's the daily measuring of sats/BP/blood sugars which is a waste of time.

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