Monday, 11 August 2014

Not a ‘god in the corner’, but a provider of reassurance: Telehealth usage by informal carers

A qualitative study of telehealth usage by informal carers of people with long-term health condition… Or, in other words, how effective is technology at helping the families of people with long-term conditions such as chronic heart failure, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. 

Technology-based interventions, such as telehealth, may be of use to the families of those with long-term conditions. Telehealth is one form of homecare technology, and is defined as a form of medicine that permits and supports the clinical care of a patient, where various professionals and patients may not be in the same location. In previous research, it has been found that the use of the internet as a homecare technology can help informal carers, as it develops their problem-solving ability, increases their self-esteem, and can open up the possibility of self-training. However, little research has explored the possibility of telehealth helping in this way. 

Based on joint qualitative interviews with patients and carers completed as part of the MALT study (Overcoming the Barriers to Mainstreaming Assisted Living Technologies), our analysis identified that telehealth has a variety of benefits for carers. We found that telehealth was understood to increase:
·         the carer’s understanding of the patient’s condition;
·         peace of mind for carers; and
·         carers’ access to healthcare
We also found that patients’ perceived telehealth to help reduce hospitalisation and this had an indirect benefit to the carers, as it reduces stress and inconvenience. We also found that all carers found telehealth easy to use, despite not necessarily having much experience or confidence in using technology.
This extract from the interview with one carer sums up the general findings of this research well: 

“I don't want to make it a god in the corner because it isn't, but it reassures you and that is what most people need.” 

This secondary analysis was completed by Patrick Rice, a Psychology undergraduate student from University of Sheffield, as part of 6 week Think Ahead: SURE (Sheffield Undergraduate Research Experience) Scheme studentship with Dr Lizzie Coates.  This work is currently being written up for publication in an academic research journal. In addition, a recorded presentation of this work is available here.

Written by Patrick Rice


  1. As a District nursing sister I visit patients in their own homes that are using TeleHealth, it gives them confidence, reassurance and enables them to be monitored on a daily basis, if their condition declines it is picked up straight away and treated immediatley thus preventing another hospital admission. It allows them to maintain their independence. In my opinion it's a God send !

    1. Thanks for your response Anne, we love to hear people's opinions and we are thrilled you agree with this post!

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