If used correctly, telehealth can deliver reductions of 20% in emergency hospital admissions, 8% in tariff costs and 45% in mortality rates, the Department of Health (DH) has reported.
Telehealth can also deliver reductions of 15% in A&E admissions, 14% in elective admissions and 14% in bed days, according to the headline results of the Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) programme. This is one of the most complex trials ever undertaken by the DH, which says it was set up to show "just what telehealth and telecare is capable of."
The aim of the WSD was to provide a clear evidence base to support important investment decisions and show how the technology supports people to live independently, take control and be responsible for their own health and care, says the Department, which notes that the exercise has yielded "a wide range of very rich data."
The WSD was launched in May 2008. It is the largest randomised controlled trial of telehealth and telecare in the world, involving 6,191 patients and 238 GP practices across three sites in Newham, Kent and Cornwall. 3,030 people with one of three conditions - diabetes, heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) - were included in the telehealth trial, while for the telecare element people were selected using the Fair Access to Care Services criteria.
Following the remarkable headline findings of the study, the key is to integrate telehealth and telecare into the care and services that are delivered, says the DH. "Going forward, this evidence gives us confidence that we can transform the way services are delivered and ensure that we use appropriate technology to put people at the centre, and in control," it adds.
The Department also points out that each of the three sites made their own decisions on the equipment they would use in their health and social care economies and that, as each site used different equipment and had differing populations, there is confidence that the results are transferable to other locations.
The results indicate that at least three million people with long-term conditions and/or social care needs could benefit from using telehealth and telecare, and to achieve this level of change, the Department is planning to work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional partners in the Three Million Lives campaign, which it describes as "a collaboration with a difference."
"This is not a national target or a government guarantee of delivery; instead it is about the Department providing national leadership, strategic direction and advice to NHS and social care organisations with support from industry, which would be responsible for creating the market and working with local organisations to deliver the change," says the DH.
The detailed workplace for the Three Million Lives campaign is still in the early stages of development with all stakeholders, and further information will be available in due course, it adds.