Apparently echoing the comments about health technology awareness made in our post last week about O2 (who are, by the way, to be congratulated for their parent company’s announcement today that they are preferred bidders for two of the three smart meter regions), the HSJ has reported the results of a YouGov poll that nine out of ten adults in the UK have never heard of telehealth. Of those over 55, the age above which use of telehealth is more likely, 92% hadn’t heard of it. (Note that the HSJ article is behind a paywall, however via a Google search on “National Telehealth Forum”, the commissioner of the survey, you can currently go past it). The National Telehealth Forum press release is here. EHI also covers the story, here.
So is this a matter of serious concern? It’s interesting to note for example that the Kings Fund is planning to drop ‘telehealth’ and ‘telecare’ from the title of its next health tech event on 10-12 September 2014, and when the steering group of the University of Hull Centre for Telehealth met recently, we unanimously decided to recommend a change of title to the Centre for Integrated Care Technology. In both cases, the ‘tele’ words were not seen as relevant any more – or as Jonah J. Czerwinski from the Dept of Veteran Affairs put it recently, “It’s connected healthcare – no ‘tele-,’ no ‘m-‘, this is just healthcare.”
Indeed the terms ‘connected health’, ‘integrated health’ and ‘digital health’ feature increasingly frequently in discussions relating to health technologies, which suggests a note of caution about making the public aware of a term that is in danger of disappearing. I wonder, if patients had been asked if they were aware that it was possible that their long term conditions could now be treated using technology at home without having to go to hospital so much, if nine out of ten would still have said no?
For those like me who struggled with their search engine to find details about the “National Telehealth Forum”, Mike Clark has kindly pointed out their website at www.telehealthforum.org. Encouragingly, in the HSJ article, Carl Atkey, head of Appello Telehealth says that work is “being done to prepare more meaningful information to the public” and “While we completely support the 3millionlives campaign’s aims we believe a more granular approach will help make them a reality.”
So, to conclude, what action should we take as a result of this survey? Clearly, much work is still needed to encourage patients to accept technology more willingly, to improve their outcomes, and to help reduce the cost of providing those improved outcomes. As was identified in the O2 article, someone, and it’s likely to be 3millionlives, or however it is reincarnated in the NHS, with help from the National Telehealth Forum and doubtless others, needs to give expert guidance to stimulate that debate.
We’re here to do all we can to help!