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28-02-2013 | Article

Blow to telehealth roll-out


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A home-based telehealth system being pushed by the Government does not benefit patients with long-term conditions in terms of their quality of life or psychological wellbeing, research has shown.

The telehealth intervention did not improve health-related quality of life, anxiety, or depressive symptoms in the study of over 1,500 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, or heart failure, report Professor Stanton Newman (City University London, UK) and colleagues in the BMJ.

The findings come from the Department of Health's whole system demonstrator evaluation of telehealth and telecare, the largest trial of such technology to date. Earlier results showed great promise, with reductions in mortality as well as emergency admissions to hospital with telehealth, and the latest findings are seen as a significant blow to plans to roll out the system nationally.

The telehealth intervention involves monitoring patients' vital signs, symptoms, and self-management behaviour and providing them with general and disease-specific information, which is fed back to specialist nurses and other healthcare professionals for them to review.

If telehealth enables more responsive interventions from professionals, with fewer hospital admissions, and improves self management, patients' quality of life and psychological wellbeing might be expected to improve, Newman and team explain. On the other hand, the increased burden of self-monitoring and concerns about intrusive surveillance and the loss of the traditional face-to-face therapeutic relationship could have the opposite effect.

Although no evidence of deleterious effects of telehealth were found here, the team concludes: "Our findings strongly suggest no net benefit from telehealth: therefore it should not be used as a tool to improve health related quality of life or psychological outcomes."

Medical News is an independent clinical news service provided by Springer Healthcare Limited. © Springer Healthcare Ltd; 2013

By Caroline Price, Senior medwireNews Reporter