What Does ‘telehealth’ Mean for UK Medical Negligence Cases?

30th August 2013

What is telehealth anyway? The term telehealth refers to services that see patients using technological devices to monitor their own health from home. People who suffer from ongoing health problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure, can use special equipment to track things like blood glucose and blood pressure, as well as simple things like bodyweight.

Patients are trained to take their own results, and the information is shared virtually via touchscreen devices with a consulting doctor or nurse who in turn are responsible for notifying patients of any concerns or need for further action. Specific to emergency health situations, telecare refers to various personal alarms and sensors that can be used to alert others when a patient suddenly feels unwell or has a fall, for instance.

Why telehealth makes perfect sense Practical measures launched by the NHS to reduce GP and hospital waiting lists, as well as to remedy long A&E wait times and overcrowding, represent a positive step toward real change.

Research has shown that telehealth and telecare services can reduce the need for hospital admissions and the overall time a patient will spend in hospital. In fact, the capacity of virtual health services to monitor patients is so efficient that trials have even been shown to reduce preventable deaths. The suggestion is that by freeing up in-person healthcare at hospitals and doctors? surgeries, telehealth will not only cut costs for both patients and providers, but that standards of traditional care will improve.

What now for medical negligence? Last week, NHS managers credited telemedicine trials in West Yorkshire with a 45 per cent drop in hospital admissions. While it remains to be seen how such a result will translate in human terms, our hope is that instances of medical negligence will be similarly reduced. The challenge now is to raise wider awareness about telehealth programmes and to encourage people who can benefit from them to participate.

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