Telehealth could help the NHS treat patients in new ways and manage rising demands and costs

Posted: 13 October 2011

The NHS in Scotland should do more to consider telehealth when introducing or redesigning services. It provides an opportunity to treat patients in new ways, and to help manage rising costs and demand.web cam

An Audit Scotland report published today, A review of telehealth in Scotland, looks at how the health service is providing care to patients at a distance, using a range of technologies such as mobile phones, the internet, digital televisions, video-conferencing and self-monitoring equipment. This could include a consultation between a patient and a doctor being carried out at different locations using video-conferencing.

The report says NHS boards must look at new ways of delivering care, particularly as the NHS is facing growing demand. Telehealth has the potential to help deliver a range of clinical services more efficiently and effectively, and boards should be considering it when introducing or redesigning services.

Telehealth is popular with patients, doctors and nurses who have used it. Its benefits include less travel, faster diagnoses and fewer hospital admissions. However there have been limited opportunities for clinical staff to gain experience of using it, and more education and training is needed.

Auditor General for Scotland, Robert 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.”

Audit Scotland looked at the use of telehealth to monitor patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD) at home. The report concluded that telehealth management of COPD patients at home might help NHS boards avoid costs of around £1,000 per patient per year, mostly through reducing admissions to hospital.

There are about 70 small initiatives across Scotland which have identified the benefits of telehealth. Three large-scale UK projects, involving at least 37,000 people should improve the evidence. The first of these is due to report later in the year.

The Scottish Centre for Telehealth has recently been merged into NHS 24 and the Scottish Government has put in place a new e-Health strategy. These changes should help the development of telehealth services across the country.

Read the full report and get the downloads on the Audit Scotland Website



Health chiefs ‘ignore’ £5m telehealth system

Published on Thursday 13 October 2011 00:01

A £5 MILLION telehealth system with the potential to save around £1,000 per patient per year has been largely ignored by NHS boards, the public spending watchdog has warned.

Telehealth is designed to provide remote electronic healthcare, particularly for hard-to-reach areas. But Audit Scotland’s review found that the system is generally not considered an option when NHS boards are planning or redesigning services.

An estimated £4.7m has been allocated to telehealth initiatives since 2006. Economic modelling work suggests the home monitoring of patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease could save NHS boards around £1,000 a year for each patient.

However, Audit Scotland found limited coverage in local delivery plans and only half refer to telehealth specifically.

Over a third of the medical directors interviewed did not know if the Scottish Centre for Telehealth (SCT), established in 2006 to support NHS boards to develop telehealth, was performing its core functions well.

Half of medical directors felt that the integration of SCT and NHS24 had no impact on the delivery of telehealth within the board.

Auditor General for Scotland, Robert 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.”

Health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said: “Telehealth has a pivotal role to play in delivering efficient and effective care to people of all ages across our country.”

The Royal College of Nursing Scotland backed the auditor’s call. Director Theresa Fyffe said: “Investment has been inconsistent and a survey of our members last year, found that less than 20 per cent use telehealth.”

Read the article on



Health Informatics Scotland conference

BCS Health Scotland


This is to let you know all the presentations from our September Health Informatics Scotland conference in Edinburgh are now available to download.

Both slides (pdf) and audio files (mp3) are available so you can both watch and listen to presentations in the different streams perhaps from those you missed.

All details are available on our website Click Here

follow the links to the programme, the abstracts from speakers, the two pages of programme streams with links to the slides and audio files available to download

Please circulate to those that missed the event.  BCS Health Scotland provide this as a service to our professional community.

Paul Woolman

Chair Health Informatics Scotland (a not-for-profit conference)

Note: Health Informatics Scotland 2012 is on 20-21 September 2012 in Glasgow