Early results from the Whole System Demonstrator trial of telecare and telehealth are “very promising”, according to the Department of Health.
An update on the programme, published by the WSD Action Network in December, says the randomised controlled trial of more than 6,000 patients had provided “tremendous insight” into how telecare and telehealth can be implemented at scale.
The programme, run in the London borough of Newham, Cornwall, and Kent from May 2008, is thought to be the world's largest randomised controlled trial of assistive technologies.
It is now being evaluated by the six academic organisations looking at five evaluation themes. A spokesperson for the DH told EHI Primary Care this week that the findings are due to be published in spring 2011, although no exact date has been set.
Two of the three trial sites have now mainstreamed telehealth and all three have mainstreamed telecare.
In the December update, Tim Ellis, WSD programme manager, said its team hoped the requirement for gold standard evidence on telehealth “will be met in many ways” by WSD.
However, he warned that the quality of implementation would make the difference in terms of realising the full potential of technology-enabled services and that utilisation, productivity and user satisfaction could change over time.
He added: “Telehealth and telecare can be implemented in ways that either damage or enhance value. Get it right, and we believe these services will transform the way that people with long term conditions are served, for the better.”
Ellis said feedback from service users was “powerful” and that carers also seemed to benefit in terms of improved lifestyle and quality of life.
He outlined lessons already learned from the implementation, including the best ways to recruit users.
The WSD site sent out 27,000 letters to recruit 6,191 users. But Ellis said future large scale implementations could identify possible users in advance, perhaps by using risk stratification tools, and market the service accordingly.
He added: “It would not be necessary to send out letters; however, visits and assessments would remain important.”
Ellis said other lessons learned included the need for senior management support and engagement from the beginning, the importance of information sharing agreements, and the need to address cross-organisation barriers.
The update adds: “Technology is only one element of success – maybe 10 per cent of the implementation difficulties were associated with technology. The rest were about introducing new processes.”
© 2011 EHealth Media.
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