Telephone-based healthcare system could reduce hospital admissions

An automated telephone-based health service being launched by two NHS Foundation Trusts could save hospitals up to £1m a year.

Telehealth is programmed to call patients two times a week to check on their symptoms. Responses to a set of automated queries are sent on to a team of doctors who can attend to patients at home if needed.

“Telehealth is helping to reduce the number of hospital admissions for our patients as it enables early reporting of symptoms which show a deterioration in their condition,” said Joanne King, a Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) advanced nurse practitioner.

A study by Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust found that the system could reduce hospital admissions by an average of 25 per month, totalling approximately 1,800 a year. This amounts to savings of around £900,000 a year.

A year-long trial from September 2011 saw 65 COPD patients regularly making use of the automated service.

Participants were asked 5 questions twice a week, the responses to which were submitted via the telephone's keypad. An average of 5 out of 65 calls raised an alarm, with only one or two requiring home visits.

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