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High-tech support helps people hold onto their independence

The Whole Systems Demonstrator Study (WSD) –an evaluation of tele-assistive devices in health and social care systems.

Can technology lower the cost of patient care? Can new patient systems reduce the burden on NHS services?

The UK's growing and rapidly ageing population is placing additional pressures on our health and social care system. Researchers at city, University of London’s School of Health Science investigate how technology can help maintain health and provide timely intervention and to keep people safe, healthy and independent in their own homes for longer.

Experts at City, University of London have led an influential research programme investigating the benefits and challenges of tele-assistive devices, as well as their deployment in health and social care. Its findings have stimulated debate, shaped policy world-wide and highlighted the need for service redesign.

What did we explore and how?

Telehealth is the remote exchange of data between a patient and healthcare professional and can be used to monitor things like blood pressure. Telecare is the remote, automatic and passive monitoring of changes in a person's condition or lifestyle using things like movement and fall sensors.

To obtain scientific evidence around the potential of these devices, in 2008 the Department of Health funded the Whole Systems Demonstrator study (WSD) - the largest randomised control trials of telehealth and telecare in the world. Involving 6,191 patients, 238 GP practices, 25 researchers and six institutions, it was led by City's Professor Stanton Newman, Dean of the School of Health Sciences.

The study examined whether this technology could reduce patients' reliance on other NHS services and lower the cost of their care; whether it could improve their wellbeing, quality of life and ability to care for themselves; what its economic consequences would be; and how it would need to be organised. It also looked at patients', carers' and professionals' experiences of the technology.

The Whole Systems Demonstrator study is used in consultations with NHS Trusts, manufacturers, Royal Colleges and European leaders.

Benefits and influence of the research

The WSD's research was of a sufficient size, breadth and quality to produce strong evidence in an area previously held back by limited research. The Department of Health, UK Government, and Health Services in other countries along with local health and social care authorities have used these findings to decide whether and how to implement this new and potentially powerful set of technologies. 

The study's evidence is also being used in consultations with NHS Trusts, social service organisations, device manufacturers, Royal Colleges and European leaders and policy makers. 

The Department of Health amongst other parts of the health sector continues to work with the WSD team to investigate the impact of tele-assistive devices on service providers, consumers, service users and informal carers, as well as to shape techniques for integrating these tele-assistive devices in health and social care.

This has been a hugely important research project, enabling Department of Health and National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funding to drive a new chapter in UK and international healthcare based on unrivalled scientific evidence. It has the potential to impact millions of patients as well as the carers who look after them.

The researchers

  • Stanton Newman (Principal Investigator)

More about this research

  • School of Health Sciences
  • Related academic: Professor Stanton Newman
  • Status: Completed
  • Topics: Health
  • Industry/sector: Health and social care
  • Funder: Department of Health Policy Research Programme and NIHR
  • Publication link: External link