The National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) has published the final report of a five-year research programme on the use of telehealth in primary care settings for patients with long-term conditions.
The research was led by the Centre for Academic Primary Care’s (CAPC’s) Professor Chris Salisbury.
Telehealth includes technologies such as mobile phone text messaging, telephone support, the Internet and remote monitoring of patients.
The research focused on patients with two common long-term conditions: depression and cardiovascular disease. It involved a series of linked studies, including:
These initial studies led to the design of a new telehealth intervention, the Healthlines Service, which was trialled in general practice in three areas of England.
The results of the research were published last year and concluded that, overall, people receiving the Healthlines Service gained small benefits in their health and felt that they had better support and access to healthcare.
While slightly more costly than usual NHS care, the service was found to be cost-effective for people at high risk of cardiovascular disease but not for people with depression.
Professor Salisbury said:
“As we reported last year, while a telehealth intervention such as this can be beneficial to some patients, it is not the magic bullet that some policy-makers seem to think it is. However, it is a relatively low-cost intervention that can make health care more accessible for conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, that affect a large number of patients, so there is good reason to continue exploring ways to make telehealth more effective in future.”
The research was funded by the NIHR Programme Grant for Applied Research Programme.