AHRQ says telehealth can improve home care

Implementation challenges identified in report

Patient safety and quality of care are improved with the use of telehealth, according to a recent report by the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality (AHRQ). Although the benefits and experiences of many telehealth patients in the 10 states awarded telehealth grants by AHRQ were positive, information collected from agencies identifies several challenges and obstacles that can reduce the effectiveness of telehealth.

AHRQ-funded projects are in primarily low-income, rural areas in which telehealth can extend care of chronic illnesses. Several project participants reported success in preventing medication errors and reducing unnecessary visits to the emergency room. Technical challenges related to telehealth implementation can affect effectiveness, according to the report.

Vendor-supplied home monitoring devices failed to work on a regular basis for one project, so approximately one-third of patients stopped using the devices out of frustration.

Video cameras used to transmit video and still images did not have high-enough resolution to accurately see small pills and patient wound areas.

Technical support was not always available around the clock. Small companies that provided the equipment were closed on weekends and evenings.

For other reports and resources for telehealth and information technology tools in health care, go to healthit.ahrq.gov.