The Telecare Services Association definition of Telehealth is:- Telehealth is the remote exchange of data between a patient at home and their clinician(s) to assist in diagnosis and monitoring typically used to support patients with Long Term Conditions. Among other things it comprises of fixed or mobile home units to measure and monitor temperatures, blood pressure and other vital signs parameters (and the answering of targeted questions) for clinical review at a remote location using phone lines or wireless technology.
Telehealth uses technology to provide services that assist in the management of long term health conditions, including Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Chronic Heart Failure (CHF), Diabetes and Epilepsy. Telehealth enables individuals to take more control over their own health, and becomes an intrinsic part of the individuals care pathway, with information about their health condition being monitored regularly to flag up issues before they become ‘care critical’. It works by monitoring vital signs, such as blood pressure, and transmitting the data, via a telephone line, or broadband, to a telehealth monitoring centre or a health care professional, where it is monitored against parameters set by the individual's clinician. Evidence that vital signs are outside of 'normal' parameters, which may indicate deterioration in health, instigates an appropriate response. There is a wide range of telehealth equipment that can be used to develop a service package that is tailored to an individuals health needs.
There are real benefits for both the patient and the clinician. The individual patient has more control and understanding of their long term health condition, and the clinicians utilising telehealth as part of a care pathway can ensure that they are proactively involved in the ongoing wellbeing of their patient, managing timely interventions and helping to improve their patient's quality of life.
The benefits of telehealth have been proven by the Whole System Demonstrator programme, with initial findings showing that when used correctly, telehealth can benefit a patients health and quality of life. The early findings from the WSD trial indicated:
It is figures like these that explain why increasing numbers of clinicians are offering telehealth services to their patients, and why more individuals are requesting telehealth as part of their healthcare package.