Do patients with chronic diseases want telehealth solutions?

By Mark Terry

Several recent studies addressed the link between mobile health and individuals with chronic conditions, such as asthma, arthritis, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), depression, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, clinically diagnosed obesity, osteoporosis and stroke.

As these conditions represent long-term care challenges, telehealth and its convenience would seem to make it a desirable approach. But is it?

Researchers in the UK recently published a study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research that surveyed 1,478 patients with either depression or cardiovascular disease. The surveys, which were mailed to individuals in 34 medical practices from two different regions of England, looked at sociodemographics, health needs, difficulties accessing healthcare, technology-related factors such as availability and confidence using technology, and the perceived benefits and drawbacks of telehealth. It also evaluted the patients' satisfaction with previous uses of telehealth.

The team concluded that there was widespread interest in using phone-based and email/Internet-based telehealth among the patient population. Most patients said they would be more interested if they received training that would give them confidence using the technology and highlighted the benefits of it.

This is consistent with other studies that FierceHealthIT and FierceHealthcare wrote about recently, including a May study conducted in Massachusetts on patients with 10 chronic illnesses and an Accenture study that found U.S. patients with chronic condintions felt that online access to medical records outweighted privacy risks.

A key problem, however, is tackling the factors necessary to improve patient engagement in health IT, FierceHealthIT recently reported. Amy Bucher, Ph.D., a psychologist with a particular focus on eHealth patient engagement, said, "In user experience testing I've conducted, I've repeatedly heard that people particularly want expert recommendations on what actions to take when they need to make health improvements."

The UK study reinforces Bucher's findings, stating, "to realize the benefits of telehealth, patients must engage with and make use of it. Some previous studies have suggested limited engagement with telehealth interventions in patients with chronic diseases, and a refusal rate of up to 75 percent from those invited to join telehealth trials. If telehealth is to make an important contribution to the healthcare system for managing chronic diseases, it is imperative to identify, and then appropriately target, the factors that influence interest in telehealth, because people must be interested if they are going to make use of it."

To learn more:
- read the JMIR study

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