Telehealth will need more support from GPs to take off

  • Telehealth appears to not be taking off as well as it was expected to, in spite of a large amount of funding to bring hi-tech to health care.

    It has been introduced as a revolutionary way to monitor long term health care such as heart defects and mental illness, but it will need the backing of doctors in order for it to work.

    Long-term illnesses are one of the biggest costs to the NHS, and the 30% of patients with long-term illnesses account for around 70% of the NHS spending.

    Telehealth has been designed as a new way for these patients to monitor their own health at home, using new technology, and could save the NHS a lot of money. It is alike to telecare, which appears to be taking off in a big way across the country as a way to monitor social care, and has proven to be extremely cost cutting and effective.

    However, doctors do not appear to be taking the scheme on board, and it will not work if it is not implemented by doctors. There are fears over increased workloads for GPs as well as patients being unable to use the technology correctly and the risks associated with this.

    It has also been questioned whether the NHS reforms will make it harder to launch telehealth, with budget cuts already cutting services and it appears there still needs to be a lot more work put in to telehealth before it is self sufficient, so will this be one of the services that does not get the funding, even though the money that could be saved from it would outweigh the costs?

    GPs in North Yorkshire, one of the top seven areas that are key to the project, have been reluctant to take up the modern technology which monitors patients' vital signs at home, with latest figures showing 645 devices are being used, down from 674 three months ago, out of 2,000 purchased by NHS chiefs in 2010.

    A deal over its future in the area has yet to be agreed as family doctors, who will shortly take on responsibility for health service funding, are unwilling to cover the costs of up to £1.7m a year in a county where the NHS is gripped by a dire financial crisis.

    Health chiefs in North Yorkshire have already faced accusations that millions of pounds of taxpayers' money has been wasted on the project, with around two thirds of devices lying unused, and calculations suggesting annual costs outweigh the estimated savings that would come from fewer hospital admissions.

    In Scotland, telehealth has been implemented in to remote prisons and police cells to deliver care to prisoners, and this is expected to save money and time as prisoners were previously driven to receive specialist care, as well as a safe method to deliver good care, in particular with problems such as mental illness where a video conference will be akin to a face to face meeting.

    It appears to have been an effective move, but the UK government has said it has no plans to introduce this to the UK. Does this show signs of telehealth slowing down?

    The signs point to telehealth just not being taken on enough in the community, even if it is being pushed by Government as the way forward, in particular with ensuring England have become a world leader in the field by introducing the most equipment - even if it is not all being used!

    At times of financial struggle, can we afford to take on the costs of implementing a new project where uncertain staff and patients alike will need constant pressure to use it and will all require indepth training?

    But then with new technology improving our society and our methods, and giving us the opportunity to save money in the long run, can we afford not to?



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