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The Whole System Demonstrator Study

An influential research programme led by academic experts at City, University of London is investigating how digital technology can help millions of people across the UK manage their health while maintaining their independence.

What did we explore and how?

The population in the UK is growing and aging rapidly. Greater numbers of older people living with long term conditions are likely to present major challenges for health and social care systems in the years ahead.

Results from the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) study, a project funded by Policy Research Programme Department of Health and led by City, University of London, provided detailed scientific evidence of telehealth and telecare technologies at scale. The findings influenced the Department of Health policy and other countries’ policies regarding the value of tele-assistive devices to patients, the frail elderly and their families, carers as well as the health and social care services.

As the work continues to shape public policy debate in the UK and across the globe, it has the potential to impact millions of patients and carers, ensuring people can live a safe, independent life at home for longer.

As part of the WSD programme, the research team conducted the largest randomised control trials of telehealth and telecare in the world, using data from 238 GP practices and more than 6000 participants across three socio-demographically distinct regions of England: rural Cornwall; rural/urban Kent; and urban Newham. The trial explored how telecare and telehealth technologies at scale can help the elderly and those with long term conditions to effectively manage their health.

Telehealth requires active participation of patients to measure vital signs using peripheral devices whereas telecare describes a system that allows for remote monitoring of a patient’s condition or lifestyle without the need for patient input.

As Principal Investigator, Professor Stanton Newman coordinated the work and led the team of researchers at City and also groups at the Universities of Oxford, Manchester, London School of Economics, Imperial, and The Nuffield Trust on the WSD programme. The researchers gathered and analysed the data, produced numerous publications and disseminated the findings, and provided advice to policy makers, service providers and users, and other researchers.

The WSD evaluation examined questions such as: Does the introduction of telehealth or telecare result in reduction of costs of care? Does it result in improvements in quality of life, well-being, self-care, and carer burden? What are the economic consequences of introducing telehealth and telecare? What is the experience of service users, carers and health and social care professionals to the introduction of telehealth and telecare?

Benefits and influence of the research

Findings of the WSD programme have influenced the Department of Health which, in turn, influenced government and local health and social care organisations. These include briefings to MPs and Department of Health executives that influence policy; consultations with NHS trusts and social service organisations; collaborations with tele-assistive device research groups; and consultation with Royal Colleges and European and other countries’ policy-makers.

The researchers

  • Professor Stanton Newman
  • Dr Shashi Hirani

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