A new report analysing the telehealth development in the UK and proposing improvements has been produced by Inside Commissioning. The report Tackling Telehealth – how CCGs can commission successful telehealth services is written by a panel of authors led by Dr Ruth Chambers who co-chairs NHS England’s Task and Finish group for commissioning skills and capability for the delivery of Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS).
The UK has been experimenting with telehealth as much as any country in the world and has notably carried out the largest clinical trial of telehealth anywhere, the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD). WSD produced some valuable results with regard to telehealth benefits, including reduced mortality, and was instrumental in the launching of the key government telehealth programme, 3 Million Lives (3ML) in 2011.
Last year the GP magazine had carried out a major survey of telehealth implementation in the UK by making information requests from all 176 Clinical Commissioning Groups (or CCGs, a new administrative unit introduced by the current government) under the Freedom of Information Act (a common technique to gather official data). A comprehensive analysis of the returned data (108 out of the 176 had responded) forms a major part of the Tackling Telehealth report.
The research results reported are mixed. Some of the results make painful reading. The 3ML target of 100,000 telehealth users in seven pioneering “pathfinder” areas by end of last year was dismally missed with the actual figure being below 3,000. In one pioneer area the local council had withdrawn a telehealth tender due to lack of a supplier able to meet the requirements. Another 3ML pioneer area had decided to decommission its telehealth services. Meanwhile other CCG areas have reported more than 1,000 telehealth users each and one had budgeted £1M for services this financial year.
The report looks at what needs to change for telehealth to be successful and follows this up with a case study.
This is a very well written and professionally presented report. I do have one reservation though. The case study deals with the selection of a supplier for telehealth products in Nottinghamshire and quite blatantly that selected supplier is noted as a co-producer of the report. I think this does bring the independence of the report into question and somewhat spoils the authority which it may otherwise have had.
The report is free to download so long as you register on the Inside Commissioning website here.