Observations Medicine and the Media

Show us the evidence for telehealth

BMJ 2012; 344 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e469 (Published 18 January 2012) Cite this as: BMJ 2012;344:e469
  1. Margaret McCartney, general practitioner, Glasgow
  1. margaret{at}margaretmccartney.com

A recent Department of Health press release sings the praises of telehealth, saying that it could improve three million lives in England. But where are the data to support this technology, asks Margaret McCartney

Is “telehealth”—such as remote monitoring of pulse, blood pressure, weight, or blood oxygen—the way forward? A recent press release from the Department of Health for England would have us believe that “three million lives could be improved across England thanks to new high-tech healthcare.” This will require investment: “Over the next five years the Department of Health will work with industry, the NHS, social care and professional organisations to bring the benefits of assistive technology such as telehealth and telecare to millions of people with long term conditions.” The press release continued: “Early findings indicate that telehealth can lead to: 45% reduction in mortality; 21% reduction in emergency admissions; 24% reduction in elective admissions; 15% reduction in A&E [accident and emergency department] visits; 14% reduction in bed days; and 8% reduction in tariff costs.”1

The statements in the press release were duly reported in the mainstream and online press.2 3 What’s the evidence …

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