The world's population is living longer, presenting challenges to health and long-term care.
Our research in telehealthcare is informing telecare and telemedicine implementation in Scotland and throughout Europe.
Telehealthcare involves enhancing healthcare, public health and health education, through the support and use of telecommunications technologies. Our research in this area has resulted in real change, delivering support for the ageing population, and people living with dementia and their families.
Professor Bowes was commissioned by the Health Foundation to evaluate a pioneering project to normalise the use of telecare in the homes of older people.
With the help of our research expertise, West Lothian Council first tackled the issue of user acceptability by providing Smart equipment to everyone of retirement age (10,000 households). The evaluation of this project demonstrated that telecare:
- was valuable when implemented before people reach crisis point, rather than when they became ‘at risk’ of moving to residential care
- helps to reduce the stigma of needing support from services and made technology more acceptable to service users
- could offer peace of mind for family caregivers
- showed the potential for large-scale roll-out of telecare for older people
The work with West Lothian Council provided the foundation for participation in an EU funded project with Norwegian and Danish partners, known as MethoTelemed.
The impact of our research extended from initial work in West Lothian, to involve service providers throughout Europe. Telehealthcare has an economic benefit due to the increasing need to deliver care and support for an ageing population with constrained resources. It also has a community benefit, supporting people to live independently at home in the heart of their families and communities.
Our research has been translated into the Model for Assessment of Telemedicine (MAST) manual. MAST is an evaluation tool that is making a difference to communities in Scotland and across Europe. A practical tool, it helps health and social care providers make decisions about when, where and how to roll out telehealthcare to people with long-term conditions.
The following organisations have adopted MAST:
- the British Thoracic Society
- Recherche Clinique Santé Publique (Paris)
- Basque Office for Health Technology Assessment
- the Danish Regions in their Telemedicine Strategy
Internationally, the evaluation has brought prominence to telehealthcare in West Lothian as a best practice example. In addition, at the University of Stirling we regularly host international visitors wanting to review the system for potential implementation in their own countries. We have a demonstration suite for telehealthcare within our Dementia Services Development Centre (DSDC); a centre with an international reputation for expertise in dementia research, assistive technology and telehealthcare.
We continue to conduct social, economic and health research to provide ageing research data that supports both national and international policies. Our recent research has helped to create a cutting-edge app that promotes a better quality of life for people with dementia. It gives expert guidance on dementia design at the touch of a button. Find out more about the Iridis app.