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Appropriate use and efficacy of telehealth comes under scrutiny

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The government has pledged that at least three million people in the UK, with long-term conditions, will benefit from telehealth and telecare, but two independent studies published in the last month alone, have cast doubt on whether the technology can improve patient outcomes or save NHS costs.

Their publication comes just months after health secretary Jeremy Hunt announced England was set to become a 'world leader' in health technology, confirming the launch of seven telehealth pathfinders.

Reducing visits
The ambition is for telehealth devices to reduce the need for general practice or hospital visits by allowing patients to manage their health independently at home (see box page 8).

Devices include BP monitors, pulse oximeters, spirometers and weighing scales. The seven pathfinder areas, including an initial 11 clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), were set to sign contracts with industry suppliers early this year as part of the DH's plan to roll out telehealth and telecare devices to three million people by 2017.

However, earlier in March, Independent Nurse reported there was no evidence to suggest telehealth improves the generic health-related quality of life or psychological outcomes for patients with long-term conditions.

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