A project in Kent to assess the viability of telehealth technology has demonstrated that it has the potential to realise multi-million pound savings if rolled out across the UK.
The report into the Kent Telehealth Evaluative Development project concluded that over a six-month period use of the technology saved on average £1,878 a patient in 2006 to 2007, potentially leading to a saving of £7.5m a year.
The authors said: “If the projected cost saving to Kent of £7.5m for these long-term conditions could be replicated across the UK it is clear there are potentially very significant cost savings for both the UK health and social care economies.”
As a result the work is being rolled out across the county and is likely to be seized upon by ministers who are keen to see a wider use of such technology across the country.
Telehealth records vital patient information such as blood pressure and sugar levels, and those details are sent directly to a nurse, GP or clinician to monitor remotely.
The joint Kent County Council and NHS study, which ran from 2005 to 2007, followed 250 people with long-term conditions aged 65 and over.
These were found to have “embraced the technology enthusiastically” and revelled in their independence and control.
Other key findings found that telehealth technology brought peace of mind to patients and carers and supported independence; that users had fewer hospital visits, shorter stays when they did and reduced contact with GPs.
KCC cabinet member for Kent adult social services, Graham Gibbens, said telehealth allowed the challenges of an ageing society to be met “in a cost effective and well-managed way”.
Oliver Mills, KCC managing director for Kent adult social services, said: “The financial implications of this are absolutely huge.
“The evidence we have in Kent is that this has massive implications across the whole of the UK and I hope very much that people will take this up because this is the best way of supporting people with long-term conditions to live independently – and at the same time it is the best use of public money.”
Dr Robert Stewart, medical director and director of clinical commissioning at NHS Eastern and Coastal Kent said: “Patients have said it improves their quality of life by reducing the need to make regular journeys to their GP or have a community nurse visit as well as making them feel reassured that someone is monitoring their health on a regular basis.”
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