NHS England is reviewing the struggling pathfinder programme that was supposed to deliver 100,000 telehealth users by the end of this year.

The government scheme was the first step in the Department of Health’s project to have 3m people benefit from telehealth and telecare by 2017. Responsibility for 3millionlives passed to NHS England in April.

NHS England director of business improvement and research Steve Fairman told EHI the pathfinder programme is under review.

“Part of this is about the fact that a number of the pathfinders lost impetus at the time of organisational change because key staff ended up in the wrong place,” said Fairman.

“We’re reviewing what we want to do for the future. We are thinking about this as much more about integrated care for 3millionlives, rather than just a technology programme.

“I think the strict definition of telehealth and telecare is not helpful. We need to think much more broadly about how technology impacts on health care,” he added.

When launching the scheme in late 2012, health secretary Jeremy hunt said seven pathfinders had been identified, which were expected to deliver 100,000 telehealth patients by the end of 2013.

However, EHI reported last week that the only pathfinder site to go out to tender for a telehealth project this year – Worcestershire – has abandoned the procurement after failing to find a supplier willing to “share risk”.

Others are struggling to get large-scale projects off the ground, including one area that had its funding pulled after new clinical commissioners failed to see the value for money in the scheme.

Speaking at the Healthcare Efficiency Through Technology expo in London today, Fairman said 3millionlives now includes people receiving support via telemedicine and telecoaching as well as telehealth and telecare.

NHS England recently decided to axe the 3millionlives industry group, set up to promote the government’s effort to recruit patients for telehealth.

This is being replaced by a new Integrated Care for 3millionlives Stakeholder Forum, which will hold its first meeting this month and will look at a “much broader range of assistive technologies” than previously considered, said Fairman.

In response to a question from the audience, Fairman acknowledged that commissioners will have to make “quite difficult decommissioning decisions” in order to fund new innovations.

He said NHS England is working on how to expand the reach of assistive technologies, including looking at patient stratification and information governance issues around sharing information securely.

It is also reviewing the care tariff system, how to incentivise integrated care and procurement processes in the NHS.