Medacs Healthcare

MAR 20/2014

Potential for telehealth in the NHS 'is exciting'

There is strong potential for the development of telehealth services in the NHS, it has been claimed.

This involves the use of online technology such as social media and Skype to help people get in touch with doctors and it is hoped it will improve standards and help to bring down costs in the health service. 

Dr Martin McShane, NHS England director for long-term conditions, believes there is "very clear potential" for this to be commonplace in the future.

Speaking to the Independent, he said: "I think this is a really exciting time. The problem is we're almost being outpaced by mobile technology. 

"There are also questions about how we ensure the right governance of these schemes - clear quality standards need to be maintained… But do we want to move to a National Health Service rather than a national hospital service? The answer is yes."

Professor George Crooks, medical director of NHS 24, also spoke to the newspaper and said telehealth is not about replacing face-to-face care but making it accessible. 

"Technology can make face-to-face care more accessible - such as accessing specialist opinion remotely from remote rural or island communities," he stated.

Prof Crooks said technology has become a part of everyday life and people now expect to be able to access healthcare services through their smartphone, tablet or computer.

"We will use it but only where it is safe, effective and, most importantly, appropriate to do so," he stated.

Prof Crooks is currently in charge of a dedicated Centre for Telehealth and Telecare that has been established in Scotland. He told the Independent the country's healthcare service is now looking to move past the pilot stage and introduce large-scale use of remote consultations with doctors and other health professionals.

A successful telehealth project has already been implemented in the Netherlands, where the website ParkinsonNet connects people with the disease with doctors and nurses who have experience treating the condition.

It has been suggested a similar approach could be an effective means of providing care for other chronic diseases.

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