The NHS could save £1.2bn over five years by encouraging three million patients with long-term conditions to use telehealth technology to self-monitor, said care minister Paul Burlow.
Speaking at the International Congress on Telehealth and Telecare in London, Burlow said the Department of Health is working with industry and medical professions to help local authorities raise money for telehealth investments. He did not announce allocation of central funds for the project.
Rather than mandate targets, Burlow said local providers and local commissioners should make the decisions on the use of telehealth services themselves. “The best way to do that isn’t to impose it from above, but to make it easy to do and leave it to the best judgement of people on the ground to see through.”
But he said some technical issues would need to be ironed out such as a general lack of interoperability and confusion over incentives.
Technology for services could be bought in a similar way to mobile users. He said: “Few people buy an iPhone for cash up-front, they pay for it through a monthly contract. So why couldn’t a community nursing provider pay for a remote blood pressure monitor in a similar way?”
Burlow said the government’s £530m broadband fund should help alleviate network capacity issues in rural areas that cost benefit most from telehealth services.
“That’s why we earmarked over half a billion pounds in the Spending Review to support broadband rollout in rural areas. And why we’re running four pilot schemes in places like Cumbria and North Yorkshire, to see how we can most effectively bring the benefits of broadband to the countryside,” he said.