Telehealth research helps rural patients in Ceredigion

10 January 2014

PhD student Joseph Keenan
PhD student Joseph Keenan

Researchers at Aberystwyth University are looking into the benefits of using telehealth technology with terminally ill patients living in rural and isolated areas in Ceredigion this winter. 

Researchers will look at how the latest technology can help link health care professionals with a patient from the comfort of their own homes over the winter months. 

Over an intense three-month period from January to March 2014, the study will monitor six patients and their informal carers and identify whether or not they find the technology useful. 

Emphasis will be placed on whether telehealth affects their wellbeing and welfare and how often they communicate with nurses and practitioners at Bronglais Hospital. 

The lead researcher on this study is Joseph Keenan, a PhD student in the Psychology Department at Aberystwyth University. The research has been funded through the Knowledge Economy Skills Scholarships (KESS). 

The 23-year-old will work closely with the Palliative Care Team at Bronglais Hospital to carry out this research. He explains, “Each patient will be given a laptop that will have an in-built camera and specialised software to help them keep in regular contact with nurses, consultants and the Palliative Care Team at Bronglais Hospital. 

“The research aims to explore how implementing this form of home-based telehealth service affects the patient and informal carers’ experience of terminal illness in a rural area.” 

“The telehealth equipment will act as a supplement to the service already provided and allow them to keep in regular contact with rural patients over the winter period, when communication is sometimes difficult to maintain due to severe weather.” 

Dr Gokul, consultant in palliative medicine at Hywel Dda University Health Board explains, “Home telehealth programs can assist in making the home the preferred site of care; increase the frequency of contact with health care providers, providing timely interventions for pain and symptom management and caregiver distress; and reduce utilisation of health care resources and travel costs for patients and health care providers.” 

Those taking part in this study will be terminally ill patients that suffer from conditions such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, chronic heart failure and cancer. 

There are potentially real benefits for both the patient and the clinician. The individual patient will have regular communication with hospital staff and the clinicians utilising telehealth can ensure that they are proactively involved in the ongoing wellbeing of their patient and their quality of life. The research will aim to discover if this is the case. 

KESS is part-funded by the European Social Fund (ESF) through the European Union's Convergence Programme (West Wales and the Valleys)  administered by the Welsh Government. 

In December 2013, Hywel Dda Health Board was informed that they have achieved the status of University Local Health Board due to its close work with Welsh universities across a wide range of subjects.

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Contacts

Esther Eckley
Communications and Public Affairs
01970 621571 / ese6@aber.ac.uk