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UK telehealth success could lead the way for Europe

EC hails the project as 'just the type of radical change we need'

A UK telehealth pilot that reduced mortality rates by a striking 45 per cent could point the way for the technology to be used more widely across Europe.

The European Commission's vice president for the Digital Agenda Neelie Kroes said the project was “just the type of radical change we need”.

Writing on her blog, she said: “The study suggests that these telehealth results can be transferred to other locations –  and this transferability to a national and a European scale is just what we're looking for in the European Innovation Partnership on active and healthy ageing.”

The UK pilot, known as the Whole System Demonstrator programme, ran for two and a half years and was the largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world.

Involving technology such as home-based equipment that sends details of at-risk patients' vital statistics directly to clinicians, the trial was also one of the most complex ever undertaken by the UK's Department of Health (DH).

Its aim was to show what telehealth and telecare technology is capable of and provide a “clear evidence base to support important investment decisions”.

Initial findings from the pilot showed that telehealth, if used properly, can deliver:

• A 15 per cent reduction in A&E visits

• A 20 per cent reduction in emergency admissions

• A 14 per cent reduction in elective admissions

• A 14 per cent reduction in bed days and

• An 8 per cent reduction in tariff costs.

It involved 6,191 patients, 3,030 of whom had one of three conditions (diabetes, heart failure and COPD), and 238 GP practices across three sites in Newham, Kent and Cornwall.

Its success was such that the government now plans to massively extend the project and provide telehealth to three million people with long term conditions and/or social care needs over the next five years.

Funding will come from the government's recently-announced £180m life sciences injection and to achieve the required level of change the DH will work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional partners on what it dubbed the Three Million Lives campaign.

“This is not a national target or a government guarantee of delivery, instead it is about the Department providing national leadership, strategic direction, and advice to NHS and social  care organisations; with support from industry who would be responsible for creating the market and working with local organisations to deliver the change,” the DH said.

It hopes this will be “a collaboration with a difference”, but said a detailed plan of how the various stakeholders would work together was still in the early stages of development.

• Download the first set of initial findings from the Whole System Demonstrator programme

16th December 2011

From: Marketing

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