Telehealth the way forward for chronic disease treatment – Australian report

  1. Telehealth has been confirmed as the way forward for sustainably treating the leading chronic diseases in Australia says a report published following a scientific study. The study, which analysed the effects of monitoring a mixed group of patients with chronic conditions using home-based telehealth equipment, concludes that use of home-based telehealth will not only reduce the hospital admissions but will also reduce the length of stay when admitted. The analysis of the data from the trial has shown that for chronically ill patients, an annual expenditure of AU$2,760 could generate a saving of between AU$16,383 and AU$19,263 representing a rate of return on investment of between 4.9 and 6. This is equivalent to a saving of AU$3 billion a year, says the report.

The Australian study, carried out by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is reminiscent of UK’s Whole System Demonstrator (WSD), the world’s largest randomised control trial of telehealth. Although the Australian study is much smaller with a total of 287 participants over 5 sites (covering the 5 States) compared with over 6,000 in the WSD, the principles are similar. Due to the smaller sample sizes and the need to have patients connected to the National Broadband Network (NBN) the selection of patients was not random but other techniques were used to obtain statistically significant results. Patients selected had unplanned acute hospital admissions indicationg one or more of Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), Coronary Artery Disease, Hypertensive Diseases, Congestive Heart Failure, Diabetes and Asthma.

The TeleMedCare Systems Clinical Monitoring Unit (CMU) was used as the home-based unit although not all features offered by the device were utilised in this study. The CMU system deployed in this study was developed in Australia, registered with TGA (Therapeutic Goods Administration) and has been extensively used and tested in previous trials.

Typically patients would have some or all vital signs measurements scheduled at a convenient time, typically in the morning. These measurements were blood pressure, pulse oximetry to measure arterial blood oxygen saturation, ECG (single channel), lung capacity, body temperature, body weight and blood glucose concentration. In addition to scheduled times, patients could take their vital signs at any time. A full suite of clinical questionnaires was also available.

The full report Home Monitoring of Chronic Diseases for Aged Care is available to download here.

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