Government trials Telecare for the elderly
The Government intends to use technology to ease the looming crisis in healthcare for the elderly. Telecare and Telehealth are being investigated by the Department of Health as ways of looking after older patients without more healthcare professionals.
On Monday the 12th May Health Secretary Alan Johnson launched a six month debate on the future of care and support. Public contribution to the debate will take place through a series of public events and through a new national care and support website.
In a press release by the Department of Health Mr Johnson said "Today we are rolling out a £31million programme (the Whole System Demonstrator Programme) to test the potential of innovative technologies like telecare in supporting care for those with complex health and social care needs. Improving care with new scientific advances and innovation is vital if the NHS is to continue to offer the very best services, but this innovation must be at the frontline of the NHS to help people manage their conditions better themselves." The WSDP roll out will test Telecare and Telehealth systems in three test areas; Kent, Cornwall and Newham.
In a recent speech given to the Kings Fund in London Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke of the radical changes needed in social care to meet the requirements of an ageing population. Current forecasts predict that within the next twenty years a quarter of the UK's population will be over 65 and the number of people over 85 will be double what it is now. Increased use of remote monitoring technology is expected to be one of the solutions to this problem.
The DoH defines Telecare as "the continuous, automatic and remote monitoring of real-time emergencies and lifestyle changes over time in order to manage the risks associated with independent living". Telehealth is the delivery of healthcare at a distance using electronic means of communication – usually from service user to clinician, such as a service user measuring their vital signs at home and this data being transmitted via a telehealth monitor to a clinician. These systems use medical sensors with digital outputs that can either be locally recorded on a portable data logger for later block uploads on, for example, a daily basis, or can be sent in real time via a broadband connection. Telehealth systems include devices with limited remote control such as examination cameras, digital stethoscopes, ear, nose and throat sets.