Scotland has launched its biggest telehealthcare project alongside 16 other e-health initiatives that will be backed by £1.6m of investment.

NHS Lothian and the Scottish Government are to jointly fund a £700,000 large scale telehealth trial that will cover 400 patients with long term conditions, using Intel’s Health Guide.

In addition, the government and Atos Origin – Scotland’s main NHS IT contractor – are to spend a further £1.6m on projects across Scotland’s health boards.

These will include a £200,000 investment between NHS Dumfries and Galloway and NHS Tayside to develop an IT system to share patient information in community and hospital settings.

They will also include a £175,000 NHS Ayrshire and Arran project to develop an online patient portal, which will aim to make healthcare information available at the touch of a button for people living with LTCs.

Details of the projects were unveiled by Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon at the first annual Scottish Telehealth and Telecare conference today.

She said telehealthcare technologies and e-health had huge potential to benefit patients and would allow more efficient working and better support for health and care staff. She added: “In e-health, our joint investment in 16 pilot projects will help patients in hospital and at home.

“Together with NHS Lothian, we’re rolling out Scotland’s biggest telehome monitoring system. Four hundred people living with conditions like heart failure or chronic lung disease will have touch screens to monitor their vital signs from home, helping them avoid repeated hospital visits.”

NHS Lothian has pioneered use of telecare in the UK. The project launched this week will use Intel’s Health Guide, launched in the UK in November last year with its UK partner Tunstall Healthcare.

The Guide provides clinicians with access to patient data and offers interactive tools for self management, including vital signs collection, patient reminders, multimedia educational content and video conferencing and alerts.

The Lothian project will focus initially on 200 patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease before covering others with heart disease and diabetes.

The health board has already run a small-scale pilot of 30 patients with COPD in conjunction with Intel and Tunstall. The large scale project will be evaluated in a randomised controlled trial conducted by Edinburgh University, which aims to report in 2010.

Martin Egan, e-health director at NHS Lothian, said the board was delighted to be at the heart of the telehealth project, while Louis Burns, vice president and general manager of the Intel Digital Health Group, said it was the result of years of product development work.

“Intel has spent years researching the needs of patients and their families and is developing products, such as the Intel Health Guide, to help extend care from hospital to home. The NHS Lothian telehealth programme demonstrates our commitment and ability to support telehealth programmes across the UK,” he said.

The other e-health projects announced by Sturgeon include online scanning to allow patients in Orkney to be diagnosed remotely, a project in NHS Lothian and NHS Tayside to develop a child health summary, and a £50,000 joint project between NHS24 and the mental health phone line Breathing Space to provide mental health and wellbeing support for deaf people, through online face-to-face consultations.