QOF should further promote the use of telecare

The QOF should promote telecare to overcome barriers to its uptake caused by a lack of coherent government policy, UK researchers have claimed.

Telecare could improve care at home for elderly patients (Photograph: SPL)

QOF indicators could boost uptake of remote monitoring devices in chronic disease care and help integrate them with existing practice, they said.

UK researchers led by Professor Carl May of Southampton University also criticised the lack of central, coherent policy on telecare to direct local services.

Conducting a review of tele-care in the UK, researchers found some evidence that telecare could improve care for frail older people in their homes. But these studies were often small scale and evidence was not unequivocal.

Adoption of telecare has been 'slow and uneven' despite government promotion for more than a decade and several large-scale demonstration pilots, the researchers added.

They interviewed dozens of NHS managers, primary care professionals and patients to explore why telecare had failed.

Researchers found 'multiple cycles of uncertainties' inhibit its integration with standard care. Respondents said government support for telecare was poorly joined up and without true leadership.

Some called for a 'telecare tsar' to insist the technologies are rolled out. Telecare technology suppliers reported problems engaging with PCTs, complaining they were not 'geared up' to adopt the services.

Participants reported an 'urgent need' for better evidence to convince senior decision-makers that telecare was a viable alternative to existing care. The lack of national guidance had been a 'major barrier' to mainstream integration, they added.

The researchers added that GP commissioners would be in a better position to improve on the poor relationships between suppliers and PCTs.

The DoH said it had been running the world's largest RCT of telehealth and telecare for the past two years. The results of the study would be used to help inform future service development.

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