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GPs issue telehealth warning

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.

Your comments (terms and conditions apply):

"Yes I do - my company has been part of the IT delivery for two telehealth trials: in care homes (Sheffield and Bradford) and with patients with a chronic skin condition called Epidermolysis bellosa (Kings College London). Both trials showed it is possible to generate improved health outcomes for patients to remain at home or away from hospital, whilst still being in contact by having patient recorded outcomes routed electronically to acute care specialists. We need much more support to take these trials to wider projects. In particular we need buy-in from those who control the current IT infrastructure. For example many GPs use software to record patient notes. These large scale IT providers are very reluctant to accept data feeds from other systems supplied by small companies like ours, not for reasons of security or patient confidentiality but because to do so would not be to their commercial advantage. This has an affect when pilot telehealth projects attempt to go to scale - at this point connectivity of data becomes a requirement. But companies like EMIS and CSC resist entirely reasonable requests for
data integration." - Roger Young, York