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City research leads to Government focus on telehealth

City researchers release initial findings from the world's largest ever study of telecare and telehealth.

by Hollie Jenkins

nullCity University London academics are leading the largest ever study of the use of telecare and telehealth, with the release of initial results prompting the Prime Minister David Cameron to announce a major initiative to help deliver health technology to three million NHS patients.

Telehealth involves the use of technological devices such as electronic sensors or equipment that monitor a patient's health remotely (e.g. from the home). Data can then be automatically transmitted to a health professional in real time, without the need for patients to attend a clinic. Similarly telecare relates to personal and environmental sensors that enable 24 hour monitoring, allowing patients to live independently at home for longer.

The Whole System Demonstrator project, led by Professor Stanton Newman, Dean of the School of Health Sciences at City University London, was launched in May 2008. It is one of the most complex and comprehensive studies the Department of Health has ever undertaken.

The research involves analysing data from 6191 patients and 238 GP practices across three sites, Newham, Kent and Cornwall using a range of technology devices related to chronic health conditions including diabetes, heart failure and COPD.

Early indications show that if used correctly, telehealth has the potential to reduce A&E visits, emergency and elective admissions, reduce bed days and also suggest a reduction in mortality rates.

Following the release on the initial data, the PM has announced a major project to encourage the further the use of telecare and telehealth in the UK.

During a his speech on life sciences on 6th December 2011, the Prime Minister David Cameron said:

"We've done a trial, it's been a huge success and now we're on a drive to roll this out nationwide with an aim to improve three million lives over the next five years with this technology. Now this will make an extraordinary difference to people. Diabetics will be taking their blood sugar levels at home and having them checked remotely by a nurse; heart disease patients will have their blood pressure and pulse rates checked without leaving their home at all. This is dignity and convenience and independence for millions of people."

Professor Stanton Newman says that the widespread implementation of devices based on the findings of the research, due to be published in the next few months, could have a significant impact on patient outcomes and the way healthcare is delivered across the UK.

"While it is important to note that these are only the initial results, it is promising to see our research results are already having an impact on the way healthcare is delivered in the UK. Once the study is completed and published, we are hoping to have some significant findings that will provide the Department of Health with clear direction on how technology can be used to improve patient outcomes," says Professor Newman.

You can find a report on the initial research findings here.

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