It is predicted that by 2010, 52 percent of Blackpool's over-65 population will have a limiting long-term condition. To address this issue, monitoring centre Blackpool Vitaline and NHS Blackpool launched a telehealth pilot with telehealth technology from Tunstall Healthcare to remotely monitor the vital signs of 13 patients who are under the case management of community matrons.
In addition to the cost and efficiency gains delivered to the NHS, telehealth has increased patients' understanding and knowledge of their conditions, reducing anxiety and increasing quality of life. A detailed survey of patients showed 80 percent of respondents strongly agreed that they had a better understanding of their medical conditions and felt they were contributing to the management of their condition while 70 percent strongly believed their quality of life had improved.
Margaret Seddon, Vitaline manager, stated: "We are keen to expand the service so that many more people can benefit from it. We are exploring the use of telehealth in obesity management and workplace health monitoring for employees who regularly need to visit their GP to check their blood pressure and other vital signs. We are very excited about the future potential of telehealth and the benefits it can bring to patients and the health service."
Blackpool Vitaline is an advanced 24 hour monitoring centre which offers a range of services, including Tunstall telecare equipment, to help people live independently at home. The Vitaline monitoring centre offers non-clinical data triaging gathered from the telehealth equipment against pre-set parameters, fast and responsive equipment installation/de-installation service which means they can respond quickly to NHS referrals and with a vast experience of supporting patients at home with assistive technology it means an effective integrated telehealth service can be delivered to the residents of Blackpool.
Even when there are no alerts, community matrons receive a copy of the vital signs and telehealth data regularly for analysis. This enables them to identify health care trends and intervene at an early stage to prevent any deterioration in the patient's condition.
For one patient, the service has enabled her to stay safe and well at home with no hospital admissions for her heart failure for two years. The patient had previously been frequently admitted to hospital to receive treatment but her community matron found that with daily monitoring using telehealth equipment, she could administer the treatment at home, which is the first time this has been done outside of the hospital setting.
The patient has had a very positive experience of telehealth, commenting: "I have found having telehealth equipment a great benefit. It has helped to stabilise my health and keeps me out of hospital."
The success of the telehealth project stems from the joint working of Blackpool Vitaline and NHS Blackpool to deliver telehealth and telecare services as part of an integrated case management service. Building on the success of the telehealth project, Blackpool Vitaline and NHS Blackpool have expanded the service to provide shorter-term support for patients to improve understanding of their condition and help them to remain independent. There are plans to expand the service further to facilitate early hospital discharge and to prevent re-admissions.