Three million lives ”will improve through telehealth”

Three million lives could be improved across England thanks to new high-tech healthcare, the care services minister Paul Burstow said as he pledged to make it available to more people with long-term conditions.

In order to make this a reality, over the next five years the Department of Health will work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional organisations to bring the benefits of assistive technology such as telehealth and telecare to millions of people with long-term conditions, he said.

Telehealth and telecare use electronic equipment to read vital health signs such as pulse, weight, respiration and blood oxygen levels, which can be read remotely by health professionals in a different location. It means that people can stay in the comfort of their own homes with the peace of mind that a doctor or nurse will be alerted should there be a problem.

Burstow said: “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. The feedback I have heard from people in Cornwall [after seeing the technology in practice] has been incredibly positive. They were absolutely clear that high-tech healthcare being used here has improved their lives for the better.

“I want to see more people across the country benefit from this sort of technology. That is why we are working with industry, the NHS and Councils to change the lives of three million people across England over the next five years.”

The department said early findings indicated that telehealth can lead to 45 per cent reduction in mortality; 21 per cent reduction in emergency admissions; 24 per cent reduction in elective admissions; 15 per cent reduction in A&E visits; 14 per cent reduction in bed days; and 8 per cent reduction in tariff costs. Yet up take in England has been slow – there are only around 5,000 telehealth users and only 1.5m pieces of telecare in use to date.