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Telemedicine 'disappearing from the NHS'

Published on 16/03/05 at 10:23am

The hi-tech vision of doctors communicating with their patients via video, digital imaging and electronic data transmission is as far away as ever in the UK, according to a new investigation.

The research project Telehealthcare and the Future Patient carried out by a team at the Centre for Health Services Research at Newcastle University concluded that 'telemedicine' is disappearing from view, in sharp contrast with the success of telephone-based systems such as NHS Direct.

Lead researcher Professor Carl May said that despite strong support in policy documents and active champions among healthcare professionals, the systems had not been integrated into routine healthcare delivery.

The team said a number of trials reported high patient satisfaction with prototype systems, but found these were often unrepresentative, and rarely addressed patient concerns about security and confidentiality.

"The economic benefits have been claimed by many proponents, but in the absence of real evidence are assumed rather than actually demonstrated," said Professor May.

"This is important, because a key policy issue in the UK is the growing number of older people with multiple chronic health problems and pressure on the health service. It could mean that telecare systems are used as a substitute for personal care, and along with this could come a shift in the burden of social costs to often disadvantaged people."

The team recently submitted evidence to the Commons Select Committee on Health for its forthcoming inquiry into the use of medical technologies in the NHS.




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