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John MacMillan, Head of Daisy Health, explains why telehealth could be the answer to all the NHS' problems.

With the ever-changing healthcare reforms, it’s no secret that the health sector is turning to technology to cut costs and improve patient satisfaction. Figures show that 3-11% of patients are readmitted to hospital within 28 days of being discharged for a number of different reasons. This can result in a strain on resources due to the overpopulation of hospitals and GP surgeries.

Telehealth can play a vital role by freeing up hospital wards so that help can be provided from the comfort of a patient’s own home and without the need for unnecessary hospital visits and subsequent bed blocking.

Home sweet home

In its simplest form, telehealth is the exchange of data between patient and medical expert- be that a doctor, nurse or physician. It allows the medical expert to monitor the health of the patient without them having to leave the house. This is particularly valuable for those suffering long term illnesses such as diabetes or chronic heart failure and has already proved successful in caring for terminal cancer patients.

Telehealth functions by transmitting data via every day communication platforms such as phone lines and broadband, to a special monitoring hub. There are numerous applications for telehealth including the implementation of virtual consultations over video conferencing software such as Skype.

Be your own doctor

Ultimately these technological processes ensure that the patient can take more control over their own health and play a more active role in self-monitoring. One particular instance of this taking effect, is the administration of iPads to the terminally ill. The device enables the patient to remain at home whilst still having direct access to a team of medical experts, therefore maintaining care standards without requiring them to remain in the hospital environment.

Research by the Department of Health has found that the successful implementation of telehealth devices could cut hospital admissions by 18% and reduce deaths by 45%, ultimately improving the lives of three million people. But in addition to the obvious patient benefits, telehealth has been predicted to save the NHS a figure of £1.2 billion over just a five year period.

A brighter future 

The NHS claims that utilising telehealth to a greater degree is not simply about cost savings, but also about encouraging and supporting patient independence, saving lives and reducing the amount of time spent in hospital.

Whilst in its infancy at present, telehealth will undoubtedly be rolled out for patients suffering from a much wider range of conditions, physical and mental.

The sooner the healthcare sector embraces the inevitable and begins investigating the applications of telehealth, the faster it is likely to discover the full extent of its benefits and possibilities.

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