The POPP programme was launched in 2005, almost contemporaneously with Building Telecare in England and, although the whole thrust of the POPP projects was “promoting health, well-being and independence and preventing or delaying the need for higher intensity or institutional care” (Department of Health (DH)), there was, it seems, almost no joining up between the POPP projects and the telecare initiatives. The POPP projects concentrated on testing and evaluating “different models of service through 29 local authority-led pilots. The pilots have aimed to create a sustainable shift in resources and culture away from institutional and hospital based crisis care for older people towards earlier, targeted interventions for older people within their own homes and communities.” (DH) The projects were in broad categories such as Wellbeing; Information, Sign posting and Access; Proactive Case Co-ordination; Long term Conditions; Specialist Falls; Involving Older People; Supporting Carers.
In the whole of the 302 page report there is only one – passing – reference to ‘telecare’, none to ‘telehealth’, and a few to ‘assistive technology’ which, in this context could be code for ‘telecare’.
However, people in the telecare/telehealth field in the UK do not need to be too depressed about this. The evaluation does prepare the soil into which telecare and telehealth services can drop and flourish. Two of the conclusions are that:
- small services focused on preventing hospital readmissions are positively cost-beneficial, but bigger ones are less so owing to the size of the population that can benefit
- community-facing services to prevent admission are not only more cost-beneficial the larger they are, but are more likely to be successful
In that context there are clear places for telehealth and telecare, which should make the returns on investments even more attractive.