Telecare concerns

Physios are being left behind in the telecare revolution, Frontline has found.

Despite a wide range of government initiatives to promote telecare and telehealth systems that use new technology to help people to stay independent at home and to manage long-term conditions, physios find themselves on the sidelines. Telecare systems that support independent living are now in use in 148 of 150 local authorities. They include home monitors, such as sensors that detect whether someone has had a fall. Telehealth for monitoring and managing long-term conditions is not so well developed but government funding means that over 6,000 people will get the technology this year. Systems involve patients monitoring biological signs such as blood pressure and transmitting results to a remote centre, where they are monitored by health professionals. So far, these initiatives have targeted people with chronic pulmonary obstructive disease, diabetes and coronary heart disease. Last month health secretary Alan Johnson called for the technology to become more widespread and announced a new learning network to promote uptake. The Scottish Executive and Northern Ireland Department for Health and Social Services have also announced major grants. But Frontline was unable to find a physio with direct involvement, although many are interested.  Sue Hayward-Giles, CSP assistant director practice and development, said: ‘It’s time to catch up.’ The changes had an impact on service design and physios should be involved, she said. Physios would also increasingly find themselves referring to telehealth and telecare services. She added: ‘Physiotherapists have a key role in using these systems to support patients managing their own conditions. There is obvious potential to use scarce resources more effectively and to improve the patient experience.’ The Society would like to hear from anyone evaluating a care model using a tele-based system. Full details of Frontline’s findings will be in a forthcoming issue  
Daloni Carlisle

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