What is telehealth?
Telehealth devices monitor physiological activity remotely via a base unit in the home that’s connected via the landline phone to a computerised database at a nominated centre. The readings are transmitted to a healthcare professional in a hospital or help centre, who then decides when or if intervention is needed.
The person is given equipment to monitor vital signs such as heart rate, blood pressure, body weight or blood sugar levels. They are taught how to use the equipment and how to send the information via the telephone line. The information is monitored at the centre and a clinician is alerted if there is any change to the person’s condition. This will generally mean that there can be earlier intervention, and often a quicker resolution, to any health changes.
Could telehealth help you?
Telehealth is about supporting people with health conditions to manage their health in a more proactive way. The devices are useful for people with heart conditions and hypertension, as well as patients with chronic asthma, diabetes, lung problems or epilepsy.
Telehealth projects are generally not as advanced as telecare services. However, they are increasingly being set up to support people with long-term health conditions and are becoming more available as GP practices start to see the benefits of people becoming more involved in their health management.
The systems are intended to complement rather than replace traditional healthcare, and to empower the individual to self-manage. It can reduce the frequency of check-ups at the doctors, ensure that issues are dealt with quickly and prevent escalation of problems that may otherwise result in a hospital admission.
The Telecare Services Association (TSA) is the industry body for both telecare and telehealth. Many service providers are members of the TSA, meaning that they have signed up to, and must follow, its code of practice. The TSA provides a directory of its members to help you find a service provider in your area.
The British Healthcare Trades Association (BHTA) is the UK’s oldest and largest healthcare association. Its members include around 500 companies that make or sell healthcare and assistive technology products that help people live more independently, and must follow its code of practice. Search on its website to find members of the BHTA near you.
Telecare systems make use of the latest technology to help people in later life continue to live independently at home.
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Simple technological aids can help make your life easier and safer, and give you more peace of mind.