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Telehealth initiative aims to have 3 million using it by 2017
Friday 16 November 2012 09:07:40 by Andrew Ferguson

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.


Posted by xela over 4 years ago
don't forget that many patients are unable to visit the GP so this could save on the number of home visits.

Cheaper, self testing could allow for more frequent testing, which would also have benefits.
Posted by mervl over 4 years ago
I seem to recall the health service has a terrific record with IT doesn't it? And until you reduce the number of/centralise/privatise primary healthcare this saves money . . . how precisely? Will the GPs and their staff get paid less or the patients buy their own equipment?
Posted by fibrebunny over 4 years ago
Most people with long term conditions will not need to see their GP for routine tests/results as they would be handled by nurses with GP backup when needed. Those with multiple health problems will still need access to nurses/GP. NHS direct with a skype addon seems more hype than anything.
Posted by tmcr over 4 years ago
We've been told that the NHS.NET 'intranet' would allow GP's and consultants etc. to access our patient records over a common system, so that test results and details of special conditions would be readily available. That's still not working, so how will adding video links like this help when the health professionals on the other end of the camera can't see a patients information, leading to misteaks. I do not use the out-of-hours doctor call service for this very reason, they cannot access my notes so could prescribe something that clashes with existing medication.
Posted by NilSatisOptimum over 4 years ago
They are having a laugh as suggested from above the the NHS and IT do not fit very well.
Posted by michaels_perry over 4 years ago
What a dreadful idea! How do they envisage taking blood samples for testing? And getting them to the lab safely and quickly enough to not deteriorate before arrival? How do they know the pressure readings are accurate?
Most patients like to see their own GP and not some unknown person who has no understanding of that particular person's medical needs and history. This idea is a non-starter for most, especially the elderly who need close consultations with no access to internet.
Posted by bsg017 over 4 years ago
As an elderly person who is very familiar with the internet, I think that the principle is excellent. I do not know which world michaels_perry is living in if he thinks I can currently choose to see a particular GP at short notice, but I agree with comments about the NHS not being good at IT for non-technical matters - I have however been impressed to have an X-ray CAT scan and discuss it with a consultant shortly afterwards with full visual display.
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