Self Management and Telehealth: Lessons Learnt from the Evaluation of a Dorset Telehealth Program

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BackgroundTelehealth is one of the ways in which the UK health service is seeking to improve the care of people living with a long-term condition. One of the aims of its “3 million lives” program is to achieve more effective self care. A lot of the research into telehealth has focused on cost effectiveness, effective working practices, and barriers to adoption. Patient experience is frequently discussed in terms of the reassurance experienced from the support offered through telehealth systems.ObjectiveThis study reports the qualitative findings of an evaluation of a local telehealth program introduced by the Dorset Clinical Commissioning Group for patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease or chronic heart failure.MethodsTwenty-nine patients participated in telephone interviews, held at the start of their telehealth experience and after they had been using the system for 3 months. Interviewees included people who had graduated from the telehealth system or had asked to come off it. Healthcare professionals, mainly nurses, involved in the management of patients using the system were also interviewed.ResultsThe evaluation found that patients were using the telehealth equipment, often beyond the parameters of the formal telehealth scheme, to develop effective self-management techniques.ConclusionThese results have implications for policy makers, as removing the equipment when patients graduate as being self managing may mean removing the very tools that make that self management possible.

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