By James Norman, public sector chief information officer at EMC
James Norman, public sector chief information officer at EMC, explains why healthcare operators need to reconsider the widespread rollout of telehealth technologies
A few weeks ago at eHealth Week , the topic of telehealth kept coming up in discussions.
Not to state the obvious, but telehealth involves using technology to enable healthcare professionals to remotely monitor data on certain aspects of a patient’s health. At its core, it is essentially the remote monitoring of patient health data wherever they might be.
A few years ago, research was undertaken by the Department of Health, which revealed that adding telehealth to standard care increased costs by about 10%, including costs of the intervention and additional healthcare services, for only a very minimal gain in quality of life. This led the researchers to conclude that telehealth was not a cost-effective addition for these patients and didn’t offer any benefits of improving care.
So why has it now resurged in recent conversations?
In the past, telehealth wasn’t able to link with devices and, therefore, health data wasn’t able to be captured. Not many people understood the benefits and uptake was few and far between. There were technical problems with connectivity broadband too, before the days of reliable wifi, and it wasn’t intuitive or user friendly.
Now is the time for healthcare organisations to come together and relook at why now might be the right time for telehealth
But times have changed. With the introduction of wearable and Internet of Things devices, all of this is now possible. There are now apps and wearable fitness trackers that can link data together and information can be shared with healthcare providers directly. People can also have consultations via their smart phones based on health symptoms that are captured on mobile devices, something which will become extremely beneficial in light of David Cameron’s recently-announced seven-day NHS.
Through being able to assess a health problem via telecare, it allows the burden to be lifted from the NHS as doctors on the other end of the line can determine the problem and decide what care – whether it be self-care, prescribed medication, or a further appointment - is needed.
This will be crucial, as in the UK specifically the NHS has been told to make £22billion of efficiency savings by 2020, and part of these savings will have to come from the intelligent use of IT.
For organisations across Europe, many have faced dramatic reductions in health spending since 2010 and technology will be key to making substantial cost savings.
Now is the time for healthcare organisations to come together and relook at why now might be the right time for telehealth.
Over the past year or so, telehealth has been most embraced by the public – citizens who wish to capture their own health data and analyse their lifestyles themselves or to monitor their loved ones - but more needs to be done to drive telehealth among health providers, insurance companies and other healthcare organisations.
The benefits are obvious. Not only can the public get immediate medical attention, breaking down barriers to receiving care; the benefit for health providers is significant. There a reduced amount of documentation and paperwork through using an online portal. It is also more cost effective due to helping to reduce A&E attendance and hospital admission.
Currently, mHealth is being used more commonly by consumers to make decisions about wellness, but the potential lies in supporting higher-impact clinical decision-making and developing the interaction between clinicians and patients
While this is the case, trust is still a key issue that we need to overcome. However, these concerns can be alleviated through legal, technical and administrative security measures and through proper patient education.
Advising patients on how their data will be used will, in turn, provide doctors with greater insights into their patients so they can deliver more-personalised care.
Currently, mHealth is being used more commonly by consumers to make decisions about wellness, but the potential lies in supporting higher-impact clinical decision-making and developing the interaction between clinicians and patients.