City academics deliver largest ever telemonitoring study
Academics from City University London have led the largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world working with colleagues from Imperial College London, University of Manchester, University of Oxford, the London School of Economics and the Nuffield Trust.
Involving nearly 6200 patients and 250 GP surgeries across three sites in the UK, the study examined whether using assistive devices to remotely monitor patients could make a significant difference to health.
Over the coming decades it is estimated that the population aged over 65 will increase from 17 per cent to 25 per cent between 2010 and 2035, with the greater numbers of older people - and the long term conditions associated with living longer - presenting major challenges for health and social care systems.
Launched in May 2008, the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) Evaluation investigated the effects of two broad classes of telemonitoring technologies - telehealth and telecare - on a comprehensive range of outcomes in regions of England with integrated services. The study was commissioned and funded by the Department of Health.
While telehealth concerns the monitoring of physiological data, for example blood pressure and blood glucose levels and requires the active participation of patients. Telecare use a combination of remote sensors and alarms which monitor the persons state automatically. Usually set up in a home environment, such telecare equipment can enable people to live more independent lives as any sudden changes such as a fall or sudden rise in temperature can notify people at a control centre nearby.
Conducting two large, randomised control trials (RCT) across three socio-demographically distinct regions of England, namely Cornwall, Kent and Newham in London, the WSD evaluation trial was designed to address some of the methodological shortcomings of previous research. Each RCT involved a number of different assessments including questionnaires and these were supported by a series of qualitative studies.
Lead author Stanton Newman, Professor of Health Psychology and Dean of the School of Health Sciences at City University London, said:
"Telehealth and Telecare have the potential to make a significant difference to people's lives and to healthcare delivery. In the current context of economic pressures and a desire to secure efficiency savings, there is significant interest in the potential for technology to reduce utilisation of health services in older people with long-term conditions and social care needs. Hopefully this large series of studies will shed greater light on the challenges and opportunities present in telemonitoring, enabling us to deliver more effective healthcare in the future."
A number of publications from the WSD data are in the public domain, and a full list of these can be seen in the Executive Summary and also the full report, both of which are available to download here and here.