Report warns funding problems, a lack of standards, and a lack of understanding among staff and patients could scupper widespread rollout of assistive technologies
The disjointed way the NHS and social care services are funded, and a lack of understanding of the long-term benefits for patients, are the biggest barriers to the widespread adoption of telehealth and telecare services, according to a new report.
Despite the Government’s plan to roll out assistive technology devices to more than three million people across the country, health trusts are continuing to drag their heels, according to a new report by the Digital Policy Alliance.
The adoption of telecare and telehealth to date has been hampered by a number of factors, including a lack of robust evidence of benefit, organisations resistance to change, commissioning practices, lack of skills and technology issues
Living Independently: Shouldering the Burden of Chronic Disease praises Whitehall bosses for embracing telehealth and telecare as a way of improving patients’ self management of long-term conditions and cutting back on spending by reducing hospital admissions.
But it warns that the plan may be scuppered unless key barriers to adoption are overcome.
The document cites seven stumbling blocks, most notably problems with current policy, which mean that the organisation bearing the cost of telecare and telehealth deployment, often GPs, hospitals and adult social services, do not often see any financial benefit from the outcomes. It states: “Arguably the single biggest barrier to the widespread adoption of telecare and telehealth is the difficulty of demonstrating that the organisation bearing the cost is also receiving the benefit.
“Critical to achieving widespread adoption of telecare and telehealth will be the alignment of tariffs and incentives to ensure the financial case for change is compelling to those organisations that need to be at the forefront of adoption.
Policy must either adopt a wait-and-see approach in the hope firm evidence emerges, or stimulate and promote the adoption of telecare and telehealth in the reasonalbe assumption that the benefits are delivered through implementation at scale
“Telecare and telehealth can only lead to a release of cash if the reduction in demand for acute services leads to decommissioning of services and this will only be possible, if at all, when the technology is deployed at scale and for prolonged timescales. This can only be achieved in the context of a strong policy framework which encourages organisations towards adoption.”
Other barriers are said to be:
The report goes on to suggest solutions to these problems, calling for the Government to implement clear policy and to take the lead on the deployment of telecare and telehealth at scale, which it has announced it plans to do through its 3millionlives campaign.
Other suggestions include the introduction of measurable objectives which will make it easier for suppliers and health trusts to develop capacity to provide the kind of services that will be needed to support telehealth deployment; and the publication of clearly-defined best practice guidance which looks at successful trials and the reasons why deployments may have been unsuccessful. In addition, it highlights the need for a national business case for investment in the technology, which individual clinical commissioning groups can utilise for their own initiatives; and an overhaul of the current tariff system to incentivise adoption of telehealth and telecare. It says investment in staff training and patient awareness will also be vital to ensure buy-in.
Critical to achieving widespread adoption of telecare and telehealth will be the alignment of tariffs and incentives to ensure the financial case for change is compelling to those organisations that need to be at the forefront of adoption
In terms of the technology itself, it recommends:
Failure to achieve these objectives could see the UK lag behind other countries in developing and implementing technology to support the management of chronic conditions
In conclusion, the report states: “The UK, in common with all other countries to a greater or lesser extent, is facing a mounting challenge in managing the increasing incidence of chronic disease in an ageing population. Responses to this are wide ranging, but new models of service delivery, enabled by technology, have a significant role to play.
“The adoption of telecare and telehealth to date has been hampered by a number of factors, including a lack of robust evidence of benefit, organisations resistance to change, commissioning practices, lack of skills and technology issues.
“Government has a role to play in helping remove these barriers. If 3millionlives is successful in delivering at scale new service models underpinned by telecare and telehealth, then the UK will benefit from a reduced dependency on expensive models of care delivery, such as hospital stays and will be able to exploit this advantage at an international scale.
“Failure to achieve these objectives, however, could see the UK lag behind other countries in developing and implementing technology to support the management of chronic conditions. This will make the future challenge even greater as shouldering the burden of chronic disease absorbs ever more resources and money. Deployment of telehealth and telecare at scale, however, as well as reaping financial benefits, will enable the UK’s citizens to enjoy more active an independent lives, particularly into old age, which will benefit individuals and society at large.”
To read the full report, click here.