Nieves Ehrenberg & Rosemary Burns
Sapere Research Group

Congestive Heart Failure and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease are two chronic conditions that have important impacts on both the quality and length of life of individuals and on utilisation of health services. In the context of limited health funding, workforce restrictions, and an ageing population, there is increasing interest in the use of remote monitoring technologies to improve the quality of life of patients with these conditions, and to reduce unplanned use of hospital services.
In 2009 Lake Taupo Primary Health Organisation (PHO), Lakes District Health Board (DHB) and Healthcare of New Zealand Ltd, entered into a strategic partnership to pilot telehealth devices to support chronic care management in the Lake Taupo community, using a small randomised control trial approach, with ten patients in each arm. Sapere Research Group was commissioned to independently evaluate the 12 month pilot, and found good evidence that the telehealth remote monitoring technology was accepted by both Maori and non-Maori participants; that quality of life was significantly better in the telehealth group than in the control group; and some indications of a trend toward improved survival in the telehealth group. Hospitalisations were reduced in both the control (-19%) and telehealth group (-25%). Results should be considered tentative given the small numbers in the trial, but are consistent with findings of improved survival, quality of life and cost savings from recent international reviews. The impact of the telehealth intervention may have been partially masked by the simultaneous implementation of the Healthright disease management programme.

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