King’s Fund calls for technology use in chronic care

  • 2 August 2005

A King’s Fund report into the management of long-term conditions has called for PCTs to put more emphasis on using technology to involve patients in decision-making and self-management.

The paper, authored by south London GP Rebecca Rosen and research fellow Sara Corben, recommends that PCTs should train healthcare professionals to point newly-diagnosed patients in the direction of websites and other media about their conditions.

Some patients interviewed by the researchers are already finding technology actively useful in managing their own care, says the report. "Some of our interviewees use email for rapid communication with consultants, while others receive telephone text messages from their clinic, for example, with their latest blood test results."

"Text messaging to patients who want to be contacted in this way is also a potentially cost-effective and fast way to send out results. Not all patients or health professionals will want to communicate in this way, but these methods are worth considering as part of an overall strategy."

Indeed, technology can be seen by some patients as a barrier. One patient interviewed in the report commented that his doctor "turns away from the computer screen, has been known to take my hands in his… and asks how I’m coping. Not the sort of thing we come to expect from the younger doctors, maybe more from the older doctors who didn’t want computers in their consulting rooms."

It is in the provision of knowledge about long-term conditions that IT can make a difference. Many patients, when first diagnosed, reported not receiving a great deal of information about their conditions from the NHS and going to voluntary organisations or even drug leaflets to find out more.

The most useful tools are those that help the patient in shared decision-making with their GPs. These range from websites to DVDs and audiotapes. Web-based healthcare information should also be made available in public places, something that local authorities are being urged to ensure.

One good example of this, report co-author Sara Corben told E-Health Insider, is the East Sussex Community Information Services (ESCIS), which has installed terminals in libraries and shops across Brighton and Hove with access to healthcare information.

Corben said that it was not so exceptional to see people using some form of technology to manage their conditions: "Every single one of the people we spoken to was using some shape or form of some of assisted technology." Even phone reminders were proving useful.

However, healthcare providers need to be aware that people go at different paces with technology, she said, and what works for one person might not work for another.

Corben stressed that most importantly of all, PCTs should make use of the recently announced £80m telecare grant for those with long-term conditions: "It’s really important that the NHS work with the social services to tap into that money."


King’s Fund
Report: Self-management for long-term conditions – patients’ perspectives on the way ahead

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