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<jats:sec id="abs1-1"><jats:title>Background</jats:title><jats:p>Health services internationally are exploring the potential of telehealth to support the management of the growing number of people with long-term conditions (LTCs).</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-2"><jats:title>Aim</jats:title><jats:p>To develop, implement and evaluate new care programmes for patients with LTCs, focusing on two common LTCs as exemplars: depression or high cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-3"><jats:title>Methods</jats:title></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-4"><jats:title>Development</jats:title><jats:p>We synthesised quantitative and qualitative evidence on the effectiveness of telehealth for LTCs, conducted a qualitative study based on interviews with patients and staff and undertook a postal survey to explore which patients are interested in different forms of telehealth. Based on these studies we developed a conceptual model [TElehealth in CHronic disease (TECH) model] as a framework for the development and evaluation of the Healthlines Service for patients with LTCs.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-5"><jats:title>Implementation</jats:title><jats:p>The Healthlines Service consisted of regular telephone calls to participants from health information advisors, supporting them to make behaviour change and to use tailored online resources. Advisors sought to optimise participants’ medication and to improve adherence.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-6"><jats:title>Evaluation</jats:title><jats:p>The Healthlines Service was evaluated with linked pragmatic randomised controlled trials comparing the Healthlines Service plus usual care with usual care alone, with nested process and economic evaluations. Participants were adults with depression or raised CVD risk recruited from 43 general practices in three areas of England. The primary outcome was response to treatment and the secondary outcomes included anxiety (depression trial), individual risk factors (CVD risk trial), self-management skills, medication adherence, perceptions of support, access to health care and satisfaction with treatment.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-7"><jats:title>Trial results</jats:title></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-8"><jats:title>Depression trial</jats:title><jats:p>In total, 609 participants were randomised and the retention rate was 86%. Response to treatment [Patient Health Questionnaire 9-items (PHQ-9) reduction of ≥ 5 points and score of &lt; 10 after 4 months] was higher in the intervention group (27%, 68/255) than in the control group (19%, 50/270) [odds ratio 1.7, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.1 to 2.5;<jats:italic>p</jats:italic> = 0.02]. Anxiety also improved. Intervention participants reported better access to health support, greater satisfaction with treatment and small improvements in self-management, but not improved medication adherence.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-9"><jats:title>CVD risk trial</jats:title><jats:p>In total, 641 participants were randomised and the retention rate was 91%. Response to treatment (maintenance of/reduction in QRISK<jats:sup>®</jats:sup>2 score after 12 months) was higher in the intervention group (50%, 148/295) than in the control group (43%, 124/291), which does not exclude a null effect (odds ratio 1.3, 95% CI 1.0 to 1.9;<jats:italic>p</jats:italic> = 0.08). The intervention was associated with small improvements in blood pressure and weight, but not smoking or cholesterol. Intervention participants were more likely to adhere to medication, reported better access to health support and greater satisfaction with treatment, but few improvements in self-management.</jats:p><jats:p>The Healthlines Service was likely to be cost-effective for CVD risk, particularly if the benefits are sustained, but not for depression. The intervention was implemented largely as planned, although initial delays and later disruption to delivery because of the closure of NHS Direct may have adversely affected participant engagement.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-10"><jats:title>Conclusion</jats:title><jats:p>The Healthlines Service, designed using an evidence-based conceptual model, provided modest health benefits and participants valued the better access to care and extra support provided. This service was cost-effective for CVD risk but not depression. These findings of small benefits at extra cost are consistent with previous pragmatic research on the implementation of comprehensive telehealth programmes for LTCs.</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-11"><jats:title>Trial registration</jats:title><jats:p>Current Controlled Trials ISRCTN14172341 (depression trial) and ISRCTN27508731 (CVD risk trial).</jats:p></jats:sec><jats:sec id="abs1-12"><jats:title>Funding</jats:title><jats:p>The National Institute for Health Research Programme Grants for Applied Research programme.</jats:p></jats:sec>

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Journal article


Programme Grants for Applied Research


National Institute for Health Research

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