Auditors call for greater use of ‘telehealth’ systems in Scotland
By Keith Aitken in Edinburgh | 13 October 2011
Scottish health authorities should make much greater use of
‘telehealth’ services to manage rising costs and demands, Audit Scotland said
Telehealth covers the range of communication technologies
used for diagnostic and therapeutic applications, often remotely. It varies
from consultations by mobile phone or video link to self-monitoring equipment
in patients’ homes.
Auditor general for Scotland Bob Black said: ‘The NHS in
Scotland is facing serious pressures from the ageing population and increasing
numbers of people with long-term health conditions such as diabetes and
respiratory illnesses. Telehealth could help to provide a range of services
efficiently and effectively.
‘Where it has been used, patients, doctors and nurses
generally like it.’
The Scottish Government has been pushing the idea for more
than half a decade, seeing particular advantage for Scotland in remote and
rural parts of the country.
Three years ago, ministers merged the Scottish Centre for
Telehealth with the NHS 24 service and published a plan to take the idea
But Audit Scotland’s report says uptake has remained patchy
and most initiatives are fairly small-scale. It wants health boards to give
these techniques much greater consideration when introducing or redesigning
clinical services. It also calls on them to invest more in training staff to
make effective use of the technology.
Although the report accepts that the technology is not
appropriate to every circumstance, it says: ‘Clinical staff whom we interviewed
were all positive about their experience of telehealth and the benefits it
delivers for both them and their patients.’