Does assistive technology as a remote intervention make a difference for patients with long term conditions?


The Whole System Demonstrator programme is the largest randomised control trial of telehealth and telecare in the world. One of the most complex trials ever undertaken by the Department of Health, it was set up in May 2008 to provide a clear evidence base to support investment decisions. The research proposition was :

Does the use of technology as a remote intervention make a difference?


  • It involved 6191 patients and 238 GP practices across three sites: Newham, Kent and Cornwall
  • 3030 people with one of three long-term conditions (diabetes, heart failure and COPD) were included in the telehealth trial

By the end of September 2010, there was at least 12 months data on all participants.


The study looked at the data in terms of these five themes:

  • service utilisation
  • participant reported outcomes (eg quality of life)
  • cost effectiveness
  • experience: of users and professionals
  • influence of organisational factors to adoption

Evaluation of the Whole System Demonstrator programme has been undertaken by City University London, University of Oxford, University of Manchester, Nuffield Trust, Imperial College London and London School of Economics.

Early headline findings

The early indications show that if used correctly telehealth can deliver:

  • 15% reduction in A&E visits
  • 20% reduction in emergency admissions
  • 14% reduction in elective admissions
  • 14% reduction in bed days
  • 8% reduction in tariff costs

More strikingly they also demonstrate a 45% reduction in mortality rates


Whole system demonstrator programme: Headline findings [PDF 56KB] Department of Health, 5 Dec 2011.

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