More work is needed to fill the evidence gap on telehealth if it is to enter the mainstream, according to a Department of Health agency.
The Care Services Improvement Partnership (CSIP) has issued a review of the academic literature on the use of telehealth in the management of patients with long term conditions (LTCs).
The briefing, written by CSIP’s Dr Simon Brownsell, calls for evaluations to compare emerging telehealth systems with current practices.
It says: “While in some cases there are high levels of reliable evidence, conversely other studies have reported mixed findings or that supportive and reliable evidence is not available.”
The briefing encourages those involved in telehealth projects to share both positive and negative findings via CSIP’s Telecare Learning and Improvement Network to enable the development of best practice models and a robust evidence base.
It adds: “With international research evidence and the results of the Whole System demonstrator programme also being available in due course, it is hoped that by combining this learning we can bridge the evidence gap.”
Dr Brownsell’s report states that over 15 million people in England have LTCs and that telecare and telehealth solutions have been proposed as ways of remotely monitoring them – enabling patients to stay at home longer, have greater control of their care and be discharged from hospital earlier.
Assessing the current evidence for telehealth and identifying implementation issues, the report says that many current telehealth studies in England are pilot projects and highlights the challenge of moving projects into the mainstream.
The report adds: “Until the evidence gap is filled service commissioners face difficult decisions at a time when resources must support a growing number of potential recipients. Nevertheless some commissioned appear to be seeking high levels of research evidence before considering the introduction of telehealth which may not be being asked of other service delivery configurations.
“The effective safeguarding of sensitive personal information will be key to building confidence in telehealth services.”
It says national standards have yet to address issues such as controlling access while ensuring systems are still usable, particularly for older people, problems over security of remotely accessed data and consent to data sharing across health and social care.
Organisations involved in telehealth and telecare projects are encouraged to email their experiences to the Telecare LIN at email@example.com.