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PA OPINION

How telehealth can help the NHS meet its carbon reduction targets

"Telehealth needs to form part of large scale service redesign in order to achieve the significant financial and energy saving targets that are required to ensure a sustainable NHS that is able meet the future healthcare demands."
RHIAN BUTLER, PA HEALTHCARE EXPERT

NHS carbon reduction targets challenge the organisation to cut its carbon emissions by 34% by 2020 and 80% by 2050 (based on 1990 baseline). It's an important challenge. Currently carbon dioxide emmissions attributable to the NHS in England alone are greater than the total emissions from all passenger aircraft departing from Heathrow Airport (source King's Fund).

The King’s Fund report, Sustainable Health and Social Care: Connecting environmental and financial performance, highlights many opportunities the NHS can take to deliver energy savings, make headway on its carbon reduction targets and realise the associated financial savings.  

However, the challenge of delivering these environmental and financial savings requires significant changes in models of healthcare delivery. Telehealth could play an important role.

Telehealth reduces patient travel and 'care miles'

Telehealth reduces unnecessary patient hospital and GP visits. Patients can use telehealth to monitor their own health from home through daily vital signs and responses to health interviews. This provides patients with better knowledge and an understanding of their health, and helps empower them to manage their own conditions in a more effective and efficient manner.

Telehealth increases case-load capacity and reduces the number of ‘care miles’ travelled - the vital sign data that is recorded via telehealth helps clinicians to manage their caseload in a more informed way. This focuses on responding to changes in a patient’s condition as alerted through the patient’s daily readings. It can prompt increased telephone contact with patients, and can focus face-to-face visits on those that really require the attention on that day.

Telehealth helps reduce demand for resource-intensive services

Telehealth has been shown to reduce the demand for resource intensive in-patient health services. The Whole System Demonstrator showed that telehealth could achieve an impressive 20% reduction in emergency hospital admissions; a 14% reduction in elective admissions; and 14 per cent reduction in bed days. In reducing the demand for these services, healthcare organisations can reduce the resources required to deliver in this setting thereby realising financial and energy savings.

Telehealth can enable patients to remain at home for longer, help clinicians respond to changes in patients’ conditions in a more responsive way and ultimately help reduce demand for expensive healthcare services.

However, while telehealth is already being used in some parts of the NHS, all too often it is deployed in a small and uncoordinated way.  Telehealth needs to form part of large-scale service redesign in order to achieve the significant financial and energy saving targets, including carbon reduction targets, that are required to ensure a sustainable NHS.

To learn how PA can help your healthcare organisation maximise the impact of telehealth, please contact contact us now.

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