Research released today shows that telehealth and telecare technology, which is seen as a potential solution to NHS bed blocking and cost-efficient home care, is not being adopted by the elderly as some GPs aren’t explaining it properly.
The University of Bedfordshire’s Dr Erica Cook and Professor Gurch Randhawa from the University’s Institute of Health Research led the study. It which found that improved communication between referrers of the equipment, GPs and prospective patients, could see the key barriers to its use – including trust in the technology – being overcome.
Further concerns highlighted by the study were users’ and non-users’ views that the technology posed a “threat to identity and independence”, and that using visible wearable technology in public would lead to others making assumptions regarding the users’ wellbeing.
Telehealth (TH) refers to the use of technology to enable patients to remotely exchange clinical ‘vital signs’ information to support the management of long-term health conditions. Telecare (TC) is defined as personal and environmental sensors in the home to enable people to remain safe and independent in their own home for longer, for example alarmed medication containers. Both are seen by some as a method of freeing up NHS resources, both human and financial.
The study is the first to draw upon the views of users of Telehealth and Telecare, as well as the views of people who refused to use TH and TC.
In addition to referencing the vital role of referrers in the decision making of patients, the research also showed there to be a clear need for the continued development of Telehealth and Telecare products, with many users complaining of usage problems.
Commenting on the study, Professor Randhawa said: “Telehealth and Telecare have enormous potential to benefit patients, and offer respite to carers. There are potential financial savings to be made to the NHS too.
“However, our study shows that GPs have a critical role in explaining the benefits of technology at home to elderly patients.”
The full paper can be read here bmchealthservres.biomedcentral.com/articles
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