eHealth: Where to next?
Editorial This issue of the BJGP focuses on eHealth and telecommunications, with four articles exploring the effectiveness and acceptability of a range of eHealth interventions, including: a smart phone app to improve physical activity,1 a tablet-based intervention to promote self-monitoring in people with COPD,2 the telehealth intervention used in the Whole System Demonstrator,3 and the use of phone-based triage to manage the demand for appointments in general practice.4 Such a focus is timely, as despite the demise of the National Programme for IT (NPfIT), the number and range of eHealth solutions that primary care health professionals will encounter is growing. The drivers leading to the need for eHealth solutions both in the UK and internationally are inexorable. People are living longer, with more long-term conditions, requiring long-term use of medication and other NHS resources to maintain an optimal quality of life. This, combined with rising consumer expectations, results in ever-increasing costs. After a period of rapid increase in NHS funding, we are again facing austerity. Hence, we have to find ways of improving the quality and quantity of care without increasing costs. As far back as 2002, Wanless identified two key factors in achieving this: an activated population who engage in self-care; and the use of eHealth,5 where eHealth refers to the use of information and communication technology, such as the web, computers, mobile phones, or smart phones to improve health and health care.6 It may be helpful to consider eHealth interventions acting at one or more of three levels: those delivered directly to patients or the public; practice level interventions; and interventions aimed at policy makers or commissioning bodies such as clinical commissioning (CCG) groups.