Remote monitoring is not effective in improving the quality of life for people with chronic health conditions, finds a study evaluating telehealth and telecare published recently in the British Medical Journal.
Telehealth is viewed by some as an innovative and cost-efficient way to support the health needs of people living with long-term conditions by allowing them to better manage their conditions at home rather than in a hospital or other institutional setting.
British researchers conducted a study on patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, or heart failure in three Great Britain regions from May 2008 to December 2009. They found that the participants who used telemonitoring to manage their conditions were not impacted in terms of life anxiety or depressive symptoms.
“Second generation, home based telehealth as implemented in the Whole Systems Demonstrator Evaluation was not effective or efficacious compared with usual care only,” they concluded. “Our findings strongly suggest no net benefit from telehealth; therefore, it should not be used as a tool to improve health-related quality of life or psychological outcomes.”
Study participants used remote technology to monitor their vital signs up to five days a week, measuring blood pressure, blood glucose levels, and other indicators of their conditions. They then sent the results to their health professionals through a remote data monitoring center.
While researchers said the technology was not effective in improving the quality of life for those with long-term conditions, they acknowledged that the study was conducted prior to later telehealth developments, such as real-time analysis of data by healthcare professionals.
Additionally, the researchers only assessed the participants’ general wellbeing after using the telemonitoring technology, and didn’t consider other potential benefits it could produce in relation to certain chronic health conditions.
Great Britain’s Department of Health is still favorable toward exploring telehealth’s other potential uses.
“We funded a three-year randomized control trial involving more than 6,000 people, which clearly demonstrated that if implemented appropriately, telehealth can reduce emergency admissions by 20%, [emergency room] attendance by 15% and mortality rates by 45%,” a spokesperson said of previous findings.
Written by Alyssa Gerace