In her first blog for nursingtimes.net, Janelle Yorke looks at the pros and cons of using new technology to care for respiratory patients at home.
The use of telehealth or telecare for the management of patients with a chronic illness has received much attention.
We know chronic respiratory disease poses an enormous burden on the patient and their family, as well as society in terms of healthcare costs and loss of productivity. Telehealth may provide a means of containing, if not reducing this burden.
The terms telehealth and telecare are often used interchangeably. Telehealth is the remote exchange of physiological data between a patient at home and staff in a hospital, to assist in diagnosing and monitoring. Telecare is the remote monitoring of real-time changes in order to manage the risks associated with independent living.
The aim of these modes of care is to support people in remaining independent at home, reducing hospital admissions and improving quality of life for the patient and their informal carer.
However, it requires from the patient and significant other a commitment to not only taking an increased interest in their own disease and its day-to-day management, but also to advanced technology.
The equipment needed for such services has been perceived as bulky and not ‘user friendly’ (Horton 2008). The success of telehealth and telecare means less face-to-face contact with health staff and for some patients and this, especially those that live alone, may be viewed negatively.
Research evaluating the benefits of telehealth and telecare for chronic respiratory disease management is increasing rapidly. The general consensus seems to be that it is a good thing for both patient and health care sector. However, as with most ‘evidence’, these evaluations are often within the constraints of controlled trials over relatively short periods of time.
The question we all need to be asking is, does the use of advanced information and communication systems work to the patients benefit in normal life and over the long time span that they live with their chronic illness?