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GPs go forth

Timeline: the evidence so far on telehealth, telecare and telemedicine

A round-up of the recent evidence on the use of telehealth, telecare and telemedicine

2006: DH announces it will fund the Whole Systems Demonstrator trial, the largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world. It involves 6,191 patients and 238 GP practices across three sites in Newham, Kent and Cornwall.

The DH says the trial is to look at ‘cost effectiveness, clinical effectiveness, organisational issues, effect on carers and workforce issues’ and is to be focused on three conditions: diabetes, COPD and coronary heart disease.

2011: DH announces its ‘3millionlives’ policy: to rollout telehealth technologies on an ‘industrial’ scale, to improve the lives of 3 million people by 2017.

December 2011: First paper from the Whole Systems Demonstrator trial finds telemedicine could reduce death rates in patients with long term conditions by 45%. The study also records a 15% reduction in A&E visits, a 20% reduction in emergency admissions, a 14% reduction in bed days and an 8% reduction in tariff costs.

March 2012: Researchers on the Whole Systems Demonstrator project admit telecare has had little effect on quality of life and has shown a cost per QALY of £88,000.

April 2012: US analysis suggests the remote monitoring of elderly patients is linked to substantially increased death rates.

June 2012: Results of the second Whole Systems Demonstrator trial show the use of telehealth reduces hospital admissions, but is unlikely to have a significant effect on costs.

November 2012: The DH sets a target for telehealth to be offered to 100,000 patients across seven ‘pathfinder’ regions within the next year.

December 2012: The DH announces plans for a new DES for remote monitoring of patients with long-term conditions, which will include telehealth. The BMA says this will put pressure on practices.

February 2013 :  The third Whole Systems Demonstrator paper is published and finds that telehealth has brought no significant improvements to the quality of life of people with COPD, diabetes or heart failure.

March 2013: There is ‘no convincing evidence’ that telecare can reduce other healthcare or social care costs, according to the latest paper from the Whole Systems Demonstrator trial.


Readers' comments (3)

  • Telehealth and mobile health solutions will only have a chance to make an impact if they are delivered at scale in a health 'ecosystem'. Also, the way they are designed to serve patients and integrate with care practitioners are critical to them making a difference. Both of these are obvious requirements for even hoping to achieve effective improvments in care and possibly cost reductions.

    These types of solutions must also link closely with the needs and behaviours of patients.

    I think it would be useful to look at comparisons with the Manchester mHealth Ecosystem, to see what they have achieved in their work.

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  • Bye and thanks for all the fish

    Its important the government realises Telehealth isn’t new; we’ve been providing it as telephone consultations ever since the telephone was invented. All that is changing is the breadth of information communicated.

    It’s all useless though unless you know how to interpret the data in a way that is relevant to the individual patient and as a previous contributor has already said the right service for the right patient.

    If the research says it’s not cost effective, then it would seem irresponsible for the Department of Health to impose it

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  • The date for the final item in the timeline is incorrect - it should read March 2012.

    Also although the study referenced for April 2012 generated some very lurid headlines when first published, subsequent investigation has found the claims to be a mis-representation of the findings - a case of never let the facts get in the way of a good story.

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  • This has been corrected

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