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UK study plays down benefits of telehealth


Richard Handford

by

The effect of telehealth on patient’s health-related quality of life is “weak or non-existent” according to the latest findings in the UK’s influential Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) trial.

Researchers led by City University’s school of health sciences found that the psychological difference for patients, whether they were remote monitored or underwent conventional care, was “little or non-significant”.

The patients in the 12-month study had one of three chronic diseases: chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes or heart failure. The findings were first published by the British Medical Journal.

The WSD trials have been widely watched internationally as well as in the UK because of its scale which gives it findings greater credibility. For instance, the current trial had 1,650 patients spread across three separate locations in England.

This is the latest survey in the wider WSD trial. Previous findings in 2012 have found telehealth to be expensive (London School of Economics) or successfully delivering health benefits although with only modest cost savings (Nuffield Trust).

However, the UK government, which supports the widespread introduction of telehealth, drew highly positive results from the WSD trial. The Department of Health published its findings in December 2011.

The City University-led study only covered the 12 months up to December 2010 and the researchers acknowledged that telehealth technology has advanced in the last two years.

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