Researchers at Queen’s University Belfast have been commissioned to carry out an evaluation of the Telemonitoring NI telehealth service which helps patients become more involved in their own care.
The research involves asking patients who have received the service in the past or are at present using the telehealth home-monitoring equipment, to complete short questionnaires on how they ‘got on with’ the service. A number of patients will also be invited to join focus groups to discuss their experience of the service with a researcher.
Telehealth involves the patient monitoring themselves at home and the results being made available to healthcare professionals via an automated telephone linkage. For example, if a patient has unstable blood pressure or problems with blood sugar levels, as can be the case in diabetes, he/she will take vital signs measurements using monitoring devices installed in their home. These readings are then sent automatically to a monitoring centre where they are reviewed by a team of nurses. If required the nurse will contact the patient’s healthcare professional to make them aware of any issues and to allow them to take appropriate action.
The service was set up in December 2011 by Centre for Connected Health & Social Care (CCHSC) based in the Public Health Agency, working in partnership with the five Health and Social Care Trusts and TF3, and over the intervening period has been used by over 4,000 patients in Northern Ireland. The new research is looking at the value of the service to patients and healthcare professionals and at any improvements that could be implemented within the service.
Professor James McElnay, Pro-Vice-Chancellor, from the School of Pharmacy at Queen's who is leading the research, said:
The telehealth approach has the potential to not only involve patients in the monitoring of their own health but can also help ensure that extra care, if needed, can be provided to patients based on measurements taken by them in their own home. The aim of our research is to measure the impact of this new service and to gather information on any improvements that can be made to the system in the future.”
Mr Billy McMurray, from Bangor, County Down met with the research team and explained how the technology gave him the confidence to self-manage his diabetes. Billy was on the Telehealth service for six months after he was first prescribed insulin in 2013. During this time he monitored his blood sugar levels at home using the telehealth equipment. Billy indicated that the telehealth service gave him reassurance as a ‘new patient’ on insulin.
The researchers are hoping for a good response from current and past users of the service so that the research findings are as comprehensive as possible and can really inform new developments. Mr Eddie Ritson, Programme Director for CCHSC, said: “We are very excited about the research being undertaken by Professor McElnay and his team. We really want to hear from users how the telehealth service is working and the patient voice is very important in this regard. I am confident that current and past users as well as their carers will want to fully engage with the study and provide this important feedback.”
The study is ongoing. If you are a current or past user of the telehealth service, look out for that envelope coming through the door inviting you to have your say. Your advice and feedback will help shape future services for other patients across Northern Ireland.
For more information contact Queen's Communications Office on firstname.lastname@example.org or 02890973087