<em>Keith Nurcombe, Telefonica’s global director of healthcare, and managing director of O2 Health UK, makes a rallying call to all telehealth supporters.</em>
Telehealth significantly reduces mortality rates, emergency admissions, A&E visits, elective admissions, bed days and costs. Yet despite the overwhelming evidence, there is growing worry about its implementation. We’re far from crisis point, but unless we continue to argue the case for telehealth and promote the evidence available we will allow detractors to win.
That’s why I read with worry last week that the Nuffield Trust’s Adam Steventon – one of the lead investigators behind the WSD – had claimed he doubted the safety of telehealth. As the <a target=”_blank” href=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9509181/Doubts-raised-over-safety-of-doctor-by-broadband”>Telegraph reported</a>, he said…
“A study done very recently which looked at patients with multiple chronic conditions found that more deaths were associated with telehealth than the control group.”
This is worrying, but as I read it, he is just stating that not all the evidence agrees – and there is a wealth of evidence showing the exact opposite. Yet once out in the open, his comments have spurred on those who oppose the technology. In contrast, I would argue that a seemingly negative trial outcome is not a reason to slam down the shutters on the use of remote and mobile patient monitoring. Far from it – if anything it’s a reason to understand what the challenges are and then address them.
It is absolutely right to be cautious when it comes to patient safety. Nothing is more important when introducing new technologies and innovations. As a vendor, more than any other organisation, we need to be 100 per cent sure that the products and services being offered to the health and social care sector meet the very high standards demanded of them.
But to let the outcome of one trial derail the overall objective of better patient care is irresponsible – just as ignoring negative outcomes would also be irresponsible. The key is to keep a calm head, take into account all the evidence and ensure patients and their needs and safety are at the heart of how telehealth is rolled out.
What we cannot do is allow alarmist views and opportunist use of evidence to derail the aims of the 3 Million Lives (3ML) initiative and its supporters. If that happens, we will have failed patients, failed practitioners and done nothing to help address the financial black hole facing the NHS. I look forward to the fight-back, and I for one will be in the vanguard.