Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced a new telehealth initiative for patients with long term diseases, to be implemented in seven areas and made available to 100,000 people in England over the next year, and extended to three million people by 2017, so that they can manage their health from home, freeing up doctors and helping the NHS save money. Currently, 5,000 citizens use telehealth in the UK.
Telehealth enables patients to take readings of measures like blood pressure and glucose levels at home, log them online and discuss them with doctors via video chat.
“I want to free people with long-term conditions from the constant merry-go-round of doctors,” said Hunt, speaking at an Age UK conference.
“People with long-term conditions see doctors and nurses more than most of us… £7 out of every £10 spent on the health budget go towards supporting them,” he added.
However, the initiative has some critics: Glasgow GP Dr Margaret McCartney, said: “I can’t understand why we are spending so much on unproven technology while we know where the real stresses and gaps are for people with long term conditions.We should value direct patient care far more. The best ‘telehealth’ device we have so far is the phone.”
This news follows the first ever NHS mandate, according to which by 2015 patients should be able to use the internet to access their medical records, book GP appointments and order repeat prescriptions. In related news, according to the recent 2012 Commonwealth International Health Policy survey, the UK is ‘top of the table’ when it comes to using health information technology: GPs can order prescriptions or diagnostic tests online and manage patient lists and generate patient information electronically.
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