• 9Oct

    What makes a successful telehealth initiative for people with long term conditions?

    Telehealth is where people monitor their own health at home and communicate information remotely to health professionals. While evidence is mixed, telehealth has been shown to improve people’s health for some long-term conditions, such as heart failure. It can also reduce the number of hospital and GP appointments that are required.

    A National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) funded review has identified three general principles for designing effective telehealth programmes for people with long-term health conditions.

    First, the technologies need to help people living with disease to build effective relationships with doctors, nurses and others.

    Second, there needs to be a good fit between the technology and everyday routine of the patient.

    Thirdly, the technology should provide a clear visual record of health results, such as blood glucose readings.

    The researchers also identified that Telehealth can help to build trusting relationships between patient and healthcare professionals. People may feel anxious about taking on greater responsibility for managing their condition. Telemonitoring, such as remotely uploading blood glucose readings for a nurse to monitor and guide treatment, can provide an intermediary step to help people get used to more autonomous forms of self-management.

    And that peer support, when tailored to gender and age, can enhance the effectiveness of telehealth. Peer support was particularly valuable where people’s immediate personal network may not be able to support them in making changes to their illness management.

    The authors used three previous reviews of telehealth in long-term conditions to identify theories and characteristics linked to success and grouped them into themes. Qualitative studies gathering people’s views on telehealth interventions in heart failure, lung disease and diabetes helped refine the themes.

    The authors hope this study will helps commissioners understand better how telehealth might work, in what circumstances and for whom. They see these three principles will be useful for those planning and evaluating telehealth programmes.

    You can read the full article on the NIHR website here.

    Vassilev I, Rowsell A, Pope C et al. Assessing the implementability of telehealth interventions for self-management support: a realist review. Implement Sci. 2015;10:59. This project was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research (project number RP-PG-0108-10011).