Deal between DH and industry paves way for telehealth rollout

Five-year plan to revolutionise patients' lives through telehealth and telecare systems

Assistive technology suppliers have signed a formal agreement with the Government that will see telehealth and telecare devices being rolled out to millions of people across the UK.

In a bid to reduce hospital admissions, improve patient self management, and save money, Minister for Care Services, Paul Burstow, has signed a concordat, reaffirming the Government’s commitment to working with industry to improve the lives of an estimated three million people.

We want to move beyond the current situation where a few thousand people are benefitting from telehealth to one where millions of lives can be improved with the help of technology-assisted services

The concordat – a formal code of practice – has been signed by the four main trade organisations representing the telehealth and telecare industries – The Telecare Services Association, the Association of British Healthcare Industries, Medilink UK and Intellect.

The partnership comes just over a month after the publication of the results from the UK’s Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) trial, the largest randomised controlled trial of telecare and telehealth in the world. It revealed that telehealth could help reduce A&E visits among those with long-term conditions by 15%, reduce emergency hospital admissions by 20% and reduce elective admissions by 14%. More importantly, the trial, which involved 6,000 people over three UK sites, recorded a 45% drop in mortality rates, and constituted an 8% reduction in tariff cost.

The concordat states: “We want to move beyond the current situation where a few thousand people are benefitting from telehealth to one where millions of lives can be improved with the help of technology-assisted services.

“The concordat is an enabling framework. It signals a commitment towards planning the adoption and use, at scale and pace, of assistive technologies to improve the lives of people with long-term conditions on a more pro-active, longer-term basis where this offers demonstrable value for money and high standards for patients.

Industry is committed to working with relevant stakeholders to overcome the barriers that have so far prevented the NHS from fully adopting telehealth and telecare

“Working together over the next five years we will seek to establish and deliver a campaign that creates the right environment to support large-scale adoption of telehealth and telecare.

“Government will continue to promote the findings and evidence base from the WSD programme and work with the NHS and social care to create the macro environment that helps this technology to thrive and transform the way healthcare services are delivered in England.”

The improvements will be delivered under the 3millionlives campaign, which will mark a step change in the way health and social services are delivered and ensure the UK remains the world leader on the development of assistive technologies.

Burstow said: “This new approach is set to improve the quality of care for three million people, increase their independence and dignity as well as reduce the time they spend in hospital. It is only by the telehealth industry working together with the Department of Health (DH) and other stakeholders, that this will be possible. In addition, UK industry will gain a competitive edge in a marketplace where many millions of people worldwide could benefit from this technology, helping to generate income and jobs in the UK.”

A meeting of all parties involved will be held over the coming weeks. Angela Single, chairman of the 3millionlives working group, said: “Industry is committed to working with relevant stakeholders to overcome the barriers that have so far prevented the NHS from fully adopting telehealth and telecare. This unique partnership-led campaign between health and social care, a world-leading industry and representatives of patients and service users will provide the impetus needed to make a real difference.

“Any changes to service delivery takes time, but time is not on our side as we are faced with an aging population who should be benefitting now from telehealth and telecare services that have been proven to work.”

Key aims of the new approach are:

  • For the DH and industry to work together to develop the market and remove barriers to delivery
  • For the DH to create the right environment to support the uptake of telehealth and telecare, including rewarding organisations for adopting and integrating these technologies into services by developing a tariff
  • For industry to work with the NHS, social care and other stakeholders to simplify procurement and commissioning processes for telehealth and telecare services at scale
  • To put the NHS and UK industry at the forefront of telehealth and telecare globally, developing significant opportunities
  • To promote the benefits that telehealth and telecare services can provide people in managing their health and care

UK industry will gain a competitive edge in a marketplace where many millions of people worldwide could benefit from this technology, helping to generate income and jobs in the UK

Adrian Flowerday, managing director of Docobo, a UK telehealth technology company, and chairman of Intellect’s telehealth group, said: “Telehealth has prevented unnecessary hospital admissions and visits to doctors, but, most importantly, it has improved the quality of care and life of patients. Patients are becoming less anxious, more confident, going out more and getting their lives back. Relatives and carers no longer need to spend hours worrying about their condition, waiting for nurse visits or travelling to the hospital to visit loved ones.”

John Higgins, Intellect’s director general, added: “The WSD trial shows that telehealth can bring dramatic benefits to people's lives. It is also a great opportunity for the UK to become a world leader in technologies that deliver healthcare to people at home. It gives UK companies a great platform on which to build innovative solutions and open up new markets”

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