The NHS is trying to get more and more patients signed up to using ‘telehealth’.
Telehealth is using gadgetry to connect to one’s doctor and/or healthcare provider
A recent report published in Nursing Times found this to be positive
Although there are some (see above) with bad experiences of the NHS’s attempts to set up IT, apparently the majority of cancer survivors find the use of telehealth as a way of communicating with nurses and other healthcare professionals to be “positive and worthwhile”, according to UK researchers.
“Telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance”Anna Cox
They added that healthcare providers were encouraging patients to play an active role in managing their care, with telehealth system one of the more popular ways this could be achieved.What is it?Telehealth services allow patients to have meetings and follow up consultations either on the phone or through online services at a time that suits them, said the researchers from Surrey University.Having examined studies that reported cancer patients’ direct views on their experience of telehealth, the researchers found that the majority of cancer survivors backed the use of telehealth.
Cancer survivors who had used telehealth reported their appreciation of the flexibility and convenience of the programme, which enabled them to engage with healthcare providers with minimum disruption to their lives and in a comfortable, familiar environment.The research also found that the invisibility and perceived anonymity that telehealth provided reduced cancer survivors’ sense of vulnerability and in some cases enabled them to raise concerns remotely that they would not have wanted to discuss face-to-face.
However, there were some aspects of telehealth that cancer survivors liked less, according to the findings published in Journal of Medical Internet Research.
- For example, some survivors viewed telehealth as an impersonal service which did not allow them to meet their healthcare team in person.
- Other survivors were unable to engage with the service due to particular personal circumstances, such as hearing issues or lack of computer literacy skills.
- Lead study author Dr Anna Cox said: “It is important that we raise awareness of this serious illness and consider the impact of alternative models of care on cancer survivors.
- “Our research found that cancer survivors wanted to get back to their daily lives as quickly as possible, telehealth helped facilitate this as it removed the often burdensome visits to hospital and enabled the integration of care into daily routines,” she said.
“For many cancer survivors, telehealth supported their independence and offered them reassurance,” she said. “However, it is all down to personal preference, as some cancer survivors still preferred traditional methods of care.”
She added: “We are now living in a digital world and it is important that our care models take advantage of this in order to meet increased demands on the National Health Service. Involving a range of cancer survivors in the design of telehealth interventions is essential to their success.”
Obviously, there are many patients who do not have skill, experience or knowledge to handle this new way of caring, and the cost of the gadgetry would put many off buying the equipment.
As I found, when an in-patient at my local Foundation hospital – ‘doctoring by remote control’ isn’t popular with some healthcare workers, who see flaws in this. I had picked up a hospital infection, which gave me pain. I asked to see the doctor, but it was Friday afternoon, and I didn’t see one all over the weekend – just dosed with pain killers. Left on Monday, only to find that I had actually picked up a virulent HAI (hospital acquired infection); the pain killers had masked this, and eventually I was back inside, on a drip administering specially prepared, and very strong, antibiotics.
Although Telehealth is really about using gadgetry at home, the NHS must ensure that the ‘what if’ factor isn’t overlooked, and there must be an easy way for patients to communicate if they need to talk directly to a doctor.