The Welsh Government is to invest £250,000 in expanding telehealth services in rural parts of the country, it has been announced today. This is part of a £10 million investment that was announced in January to improve efficiency in the Welsh NHS.
Information available indicates that this telehealth investment is primarily in imaging technology enabling specialists in distant centres to access X-ray and other images taken at rural health facilities closer to the patients.
The press release from the Welsh Government quotes the Health Minister Professor Mark Drakeford as saying “Telehealth already means orthopaedic specialists in Abergavenny can look at X-rays from Brecon to avoid unnecessary travel for patients. This investment will take stock of all practices which use telehealth across NHS Wales and look at how, within the Mid Wales Healthcare Collaborative region, we can scale these projects up to benefit more patients.
“I visited a tele-dermatology service at Bronglais Hospital, in Aberystwyth, last November which was sending images and clinical details to specialists in Glangwili Hospital, in Carmarthen, saving patients long journeys to access specialist help. This funding will increase the number of people who can benefit from this kind of technology, ensuring they receive care closer to home.
“Technology can help us to address some of the challenges in providing healthcare in Mid Wales. This funding will be used to look at how some of the best examples of telehealth can be used to benefit people in Mid Wales.”
Although the minister’s comments are couched in patient-benefit terms, the fundamental driving force in this investment is increased efficiency. It is thought that the use of technology in this way will lead to use of less time from specialists resulting in more efficient use of their time.