Telehealth doesn't boost quality of life, researchers say

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Despite projections that 1.8 million patients worldwide will be treated via telehealth by 2017 and increasing legislation in the U.S. to push such efforts, a team of British researchers has found that, at least for patients with chronic conditions, telehealth isn't all that effective.

The researchers, whose work was published this week in BMJ, followed more than 1,500 patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or hear failure over the course of a year who used telehealth, as implemented by the Whole System Demonstrator Evaluation. They found that, when compared to patients who received regular care without telehealth equipment, there were no significant improvements in reported quality of life or anxiety or depression symptoms.

"Notwithstanding steady growth in telehealth studies over the past 20 years, robust evidence to inform policy decisions is lacking," the authors wrote. "Systematic reviews show that although enthusiasts have written much about the promise of telehealth, most studies do not meet orthodox quality standards."

The authors said that based on their findings, telehealth offered "no net benefit" to patients, and thus, should not be considered as a tool to improve health.

Interestingly, more broad research of the Whole System Demonstrator project published in December 2011 determined that remote monitoring of patients with diabetes, heart failure and COPD reduced mortality rates by 45 percent.

Last year, Danville, Pa.-based Geisinger Health Plan reported that its use of a home telemonitoring program for patients with congestive heart failure reduced readmission rates by 44 percent.

To learn more:
- read the BMJ study

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