The NHS spends 70% of its budget on the 15 million people who have one or more long term conditions such as heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and diabetes.
Evidence shows that appropriate diagnosis, treatment and ongoing support can improve a patient's quality of life, reduce morbidity and mortality, and reduce the length of hospital admissions.
Telehealth monitoring provides support and patient care 'at a distance' by regularly monitoring their health at home. The technique typically involves measuring factors specific to each person's condition e.g. blood pressure for a patient with a heart condition.
There are benefits to both the patient and the medical staff:
- The patient doesn't have to travel to their GP or hospital for routine readings
- The equipment accurately monitors the patient's condition without any staff intervention
- Medical staff can concentrate on those patients whose readings suggest there may be a problem
- Knowing that a medical professional is tracking their progress, allows patients to take control of their life
A BBC South News report about telehealth in Berkshire West can be viewed below:
Heart failure affects at least one in every hundred people in the UK and the number of patients with heart failure is set to rise in the next 20 years, due to improved survival rates in cardiovascular disease combined with an ageing population.
One example of health screening of heart patients is being used by the Community Heart Failure Team, where they have introduced a system to monitor a number of heart failure patients, initially in West Berkshire, with the aim to roll this out across the East of the county.
This particular system involves providing a patient with a small monitor, connected to one or more devices, in their home. On a daily basis, the patient is led through a simple procedure when a range of readings are recorded, such as blood pressure, oxygen levels, weight and pulse.
The system then automatically sends the information back to a monitoring hub, located at the Practice, where skilled clinicians will be alerted to any abnormal readings. They can then call the patient to assess their condition and decide if any further action is needed or provide advice on improvements to their lifestyle.
Case study - Marcus
In early 2013 I awoke in the middle of the night feeling pressure on my chest and it was difficult to breath. My wife called the emergency services and within 5 minutes a bike paramedic arrived and I was soon on my way to Hospital. I was diagnosed with a DVT (Deep vein thrombosis) and PE (Pulmonary embolism) and discharged from hospital.
A comprehensive support package was put in place and, over the following weeks, I was inundated with a series of friendly nurses, of one type or another, and my health continued to improve. One nurse has remained with me throughout, Kerry the Heart nurse, a lovelier individual you could not hope to meet!
Kerry suggested that I was a good candidate for remote telehealth, explaining that it was an internet-based system that allowed the nurses to monitor a patient remotely – I would supply an internet connection and the Health Authority would provide and install the necessary equipment, free of charge.
I was initially a little worried that a remote monitoring system at home would be too complicated, but how wrong I was. The system is very easy to use and potentially portable if I need to be away from home for more than twenty-four hours, but the nurses like to be advised if there will be any break in monitoring, such as taking a holiday.
I have used the system every day and continue to do so. It prompts me to take my vital readings and, once taken, they are automatically uploaded to a central location and reviewed. If any of the readings are abnormal, a nurse phones me, we discuss the reading and agree what action to take.
My telehealth system doesn't directly make any changes to my physical health - the changes it brings are more psychological rather than physical. I "know" when I am having a good day or a bad day because the system tells me.
I still continue to use the system and will probably have to do so for the rest of my life, but being monitored daily removes significant worry and provides me with peace of mind.
If someone is offered a place on the programme, I'd say 'Do it as soon as possible'. The telehealth system is very easy to use and provides peace of mind. Using the system also enables the nurses to monitor you daily without disturbing your life.