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‘No evidence’ that telehealth reduces GPs’ workload

There is no evidence that telehealth alters the number of patient contacts with GPs or reduces GPs’ workload, a new study has found.

The study, conducted by the Nuffield Trust, showed that patients using telehealth contacted GPs as often as those who did not, concluding it will not reduce GPs’ workloads, despite Government claims that telehealth scheme will reduce the burden on GPs.

This follows a similar study this week that showed that telemonitoring fails to cut hospital admissions for COPD patients, and other studies that have called into question the benefits and value of telehealth, including the Government’s own Whole Systems Demonstrator study.

The Nuffield Trust study monitored 3,230 people with diabetes, COPD or heart failure from 179 general practices across three areas in England and split them into two groups, with one using telehealth and one control group.   

The results showed that GP contacts from the control group averaged 8.85 during the trial compared with the telehealth group, which averaged 8.85 during the trial.

The authors concluded: ‘We did not find evidence that telehealth led to a significant reduction in GP workload’. However, the authors also found that there was no evidence telehealth increased the burden on GPs.

The Government launched its ‘3millionlives’ campaign in 2011 to provide patients with long-term conditions access to new technologies by 2017. Health secretary Jeremy Hunt has said that technology, including telehealth, can be used to free up GP time, and the Government has introduced a remote monitoring DES to encourage GPs to take up the scheme, which has been criticised by the GPC.

However, the Government’s flagship trial showed a 45% reduction in mortality and 20% fall in emergency admissions, but a cost per QALY of £92,000 – above the usual NICE threshold for cost-effectiveness of £20,000–£30,000 per QALY.