Hands up if you have ever had to sit in a waiting room for what seemed forever to see your GP, and then the consultation was over in two minutes?
Well a telehealth initiative may help to reduce that wait, and maybe at the same time save health professionals time and money. The initiative as it currently stands seeks to have three million people who have to attend appointments for routine blood pressure readings, or blood glucose level checks logging them over their broadband connection and interacting with health professionals over the Internet.
Coverage of this announcement in The Telegraph raises many of the worries some have, which is mainly around whether this form of e-health can generate the savings and still provide a good level of health. Certainly if the contact is down to a patient typing blood pressure readings into an email and reporting their general health, then yes this carries a risk of people massaging results and other issues being missed, use of video conferencing and automatic submission of results from test hardware can in theory resolve much of this.
Telemedicine cannot totally replace contact with health professionals, but there appears to be a case here that if routine appointments can be carried out quicker and with less hassle for all involved, that there is potential for more home visits for the most frail and ill members of society. Simply visiting the GP for someone who is frail can be dangerous in the winter, resulting in falls and expensive hip replacements, though on the flip side for those who live alone it is a chance to interact with out human beings.
Perhaps in five years we will see the role of District Nurses in a vastly different way, less of the Morris Minor and more of the professional who interacts with a number of patients over Skype or similar and can then concentrate on home visits for those who are most in need of help.
The coverage has all been triggered by Self Care Week, with Norman Lamb, Minister of State for Care services talking at the Self Care Conference.
To help judge the wider opinion, we have started a quick poll to run alongside this news article, which is available on the right hand side of our homepage. If you find a poll about the Universal Service Commitment, respond to that and the Telehealth poll will subsequently appear.