Objectives To assess the sustainability, clinical utility and acceptability to clinicians and parents of a tele-homecare programme for infants with major congenital heart disease (CHD), and to evaluate the impact on healthcare resource use.
Design Randomised control trial.
Setting UK tertiary congenital cardiac centre.
Participants 83 infants with major CHD.
Intervention Participants were randomised to one of three groups: video-conferencing support (n=35), telephone support (n=24) and a control group (n=24). Patients in the two intervention groups received regular, standardised remote consultations. Video-conferences (VCs) were facilitated by Integrated Systems Digital Network lines and replaced by home broadband connections later in the study.
Main outcome measures Healthcare resource use, utilisation including hospitalisation, clinicians' opinions on utility and quality of interventions, parental opinions on quality of interventions.
Results Clinicians were more confident making medical decisions following VCs compared with telephone consultations (p=0.01). Both VC and telephone support were very well received, but parents expressed significantly higher levels of satisfaction with VC support (p=0.001). Healthcare resource use was 37% lower in the video-conferencing group compared with both telephone support and control groups (p<0.001), as was the risk of hospitalisation (p=0.006). Direct health service costs were significantly lower in the video-conferencing group (p<0.05).
Conclusions A tele-medicine home support programme for families of infants with major CHD is feasible, sustainable and effective. Home support with video-conferencing is superior to telephone consultations. Parents are highly satisfied with tele-homecare. Tele-homecare significantly reduces health service utilisation and may reduce health service costs.
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Funding This work was supported by: (1) The Paediatric Cardiology Charitable Funds of the Royal Belfast Hospital for Sick Children; was paid the research salary. (2) Questmark Limited video-conferencing company. This took the form of not charging for the use of the video-conferencing equipment and technical support. It also included paying the cost of phone line rental. None of the researchers have received any payments from this company.
Competing interests This study was partially funded by a videoconferencing company Questmark limited.
Ethics approval This study was conducted with the approval of the research ethics committee of Queen's University, Belfast.
Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.
Data sharing statement The data presented is complete; an additional cost analysis data was conducted. This data will be prepared for future publication.
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