The DH told GP it assumes at least two million telehealth users will save the NHS £70 to £543 each per year, mainly from fewer hospital admissions.
University of Hull telehealth expert David Barrett, who was shown the evidence, said rolling out enough telehealth devices to save this sum would be ‘exceptionally challenging’.
Increased demand for community care could use up many of the savings from a cut in hospital admissions, he said.
The DH initially refused to explain the calculations behind its claim, but an appeal by GP has forced it to publish evidence behind the prediction.
Telecare uses safety devices such as panic alarms, while telehealth tracks vital signs, such as BP. The DH wants three million patients to benefit from such devices by 2017.
Mr Barrett told GP that although there was ‘no doubt the DH sums add up’, the eventual scale of the savings remained unclear.
‘If we assume that a hospital admission costs about £2,000 and telemonitoring averts an admission, it has – in theory – ‘saved’ £2,000 for those who would pay the cost of the admission, usually the PCT or clinical commissioning group,’ he said. ‘Of course, it’s never as simple as this. Instead of being managed in hospital, the patient will probably require additional community input, so those costs will increase,’ he added.
‘However, I’m still confident averting admissions with telehealth will reduce overall costs.’
The DH originally blocked GP’s request for the evidence behind its savings claim, but published a summary of its calculations after an appeal. It said disclosing the full evidence would ‘be a prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs, given that the information sought is in statistical format’.
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