What is telehealth?
Telehealth provides remote access to some health care services for people with long-term health conditions. Using a combination of equipment and technology, telehealth makes it possible for medical professionals to monitor your health, manage your treatment or diagnose conditions without you needing to visit a surgery or arrange a home visit. The technology is sometimes also called telemedicine.
How does it work?
Telehealth devices monitor physiological activity remotely via a base unit in the home which is connected 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 technology uses a telephone landline or internet connection to communicate with the monitoring centre.
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. 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 there can be earlier intervention and often a quicker resolution to any health concerns.
Increasingly, telehealth can also involve the use of video conferencing technology to enable face-to-face consultations with a medical professional, without leaving home.
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.
If you take multiple medications at home there are various devices that can help you to manage all the different prescriptions. These include pill dispensers and organisers, and medication reminders and timers.
How to arrange telehealth
If you feel that telehealth may be beneficial for your condition, start by speaking to your GP or another health professional involved in your care. They can provide guidance about whether it would be appropriate to your condition and what services may be available. They can also tell you if the service could be provided by the NHS.
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.
Read about how personal alarms can help older people feel safer at home and remain independent for longer.
Read about correctly storing medication and how using a pill dispenser can help you take medication as prescribed.