Care Services Minister Paul Burstow has pledged to "change the lives" of three million people in England with long-term conditions (LTCs) over the next five years.
During this period, the Department of Health will work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional organisations to bring the benefits of assistive technology such as telehealth and telecare to millions of people with LTCs, the Minister has said, after seeing the technology in practice in Cornwall.
Telehealth and telecare use electronic equipment to read vital health signs such as pulse, weight, respiration and blood oxygen levels, which can be read remotely by health professionals in a different location. This enables patients to stay within their own homes with the knowledge that a doctor or nurse will be alerted if a problem should arise.
"The trials of telehealth and telecare have shown how people with long-term conditions can live more independently, reducing the time they have to spend in hospital and improving their quality of life," said Mr Burstow. "The feedback I have heard from people in Cornwall today has been incredibly positive. They were absolutely clear that high-tech healthcare being used here has improved their lives."
Researchers report that telehealth lead to reductions of: - 45% in mortality; - 21% in emergency admissions; - 24% in elective admissions; - 15% in accident and emergency (A&E) department visits; - 14% in bed days; and - 8% in tariff costs. Yet uptake in England has been slow, with only around 5,000 telehealth users and just 1.5 million pieces of telecare in use to date.
But Ministers say that at least three million people with LTCs could benefit from the technologies, leading to a potential net efficiency gain of around £1.2 billion over the next five years and putting the UK in the forefront globally of LTC management and the use of this technology.
Some 15.4 million people living in England have at least one LTC - defined as a condition that cannot be cured but can be managed - and it is expected that this number will increase to around 18 million over the next 20 years, with the main increase begin among people with multiple LTCs. These patients are high users of health services, using around 75% of all inpatient bed days, 65% of outpatient appointments and 55% of all GP appointments. They account for around 70% of total national spending on health and social care.
Over the last three years, the Department of Health has been running the world's largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare, involving 6,191 participants and 238 GP practices across three locations in Cornwall, Kent and Newham.
"I want to see more people across the country benefit from this sort of technology. That is why we are working with industry, the NHS and councils to change the lives of three million people across England over the next five years," said Mr Burstow.