Telehealth – looking beyond the technology

Telehealth was thrown into the spotlight today at the Health and Care Innovation Expo, where a panel of experts discussed its potential and asked the question – has it been too focused on technology?

The panel, including Beverley Bryant and Dr Martin McShane from NHS England, Ian Dalton, President of BT Global Health and Dr Richard Pope, Clinical director at Dynamic Health Systems, agreed unanimously that telehealth has been too focused on technology and more needs to be done to break down the barriers to its use, and to demonstrate the benefits.

Talking about the opportunities of telehealth, Dr Martin McShane, Domain director for improving the quality of life for people with long term conditions at NHS England, said putting people in control of their own care could be transformational. He said: “We need to put person-centred care central to what we do. If we are really going to do this we need to make sure people are empowered and in control. We need to support professional collaborations and draw upon evidence. We need to work out how we plan, invest, monitor and improve services using resources to best effect. All this is enabled by digital technology and we need to re-engage hearts and minds regarding the potential telehealth can deliver. Technology systems need to allow people to say ‘I own my own care’.”

“We need to look at the system levers that stop us getting pull across the system – I bet there isn’t a single healthcare professional that goes to work saying ‘how difficult can I make this for patients?’ We need training, education and narrative to deliver potential for technology enabled care systems.”

Beverley Bryant, Director of strategic systems and technology, NHS England said: “A lot has been invested in putting technology in people’s homes but it has failed to achieve the full benefits because it has been a strategic approach – it needs to be done at a grass roots level. We need to build telehealth solutions that work best for people on the ground.”

“Digital ambitions have been realised but we are working now to disseminate real-life examples of the benefits telehealth has to offer for patients and clinicians – we hope this will encourage people to see the potential.”