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Rational development of telehealth to support primary care respiratory medicine: patient distribution and organisational factors

Primary Care Respiratory Journal volume 20, pages 415420 (2011) | Download Citation




Telehealth may offer opportunities to support primary and secondary care of patients with respiratory disease. This study examined the potential for applying telehealth in a region of the UK by exploring the distribution of patients and examining attitudes to implementation of telehealth.


The distribution of patients with asthma, COPD, lung cancer and obstructive sleep apnoea (OSAS) in the NHS Highland Region (309,900 residents, 12,507 square miles) was determined from Quality and Outcomes Framework data and disease registers. Qualitative interviews with health professionals (n=20) focussing on the potential for telehealth in respiratory medicine were analysed using the Normalisation Process Model.


The most remote general practices accounted for 40% of patients with asthma (7198/17822), 45% of those with COPD (2145/4721), 33% of lung cancer (199/605) and 35% of OSAS (169/489) patients. Urban figures were 28% of asthma patients, 26% of COPD patients, 25% of lung cancer and 31% of OSAS patients. Interviewees identified a range of telehealth applications they considered potentially beneficial including management, information and communication systems. However, they also identified challenges — mainly related to training, costs and infrastructure.


Tailoring telehealth to support management of respiratory diseases in primary care requires knowledge of patient distribution, which will impact on the nature and feasibility of services. Individual and organisational capacities and attitudes are also likely to influence successful implementation.

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  1. Centre for Rural Health, Centre for Health Science, University of Aberdeen, Inverness, UK

    • David John Godden
    •  & Gerry King


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David Godden conceived the study, analysed the quantitative data and co-wrote the manuscript. Gerry King designed the qualitative elements, performed interviews and analysis of transcripts, and co-wrote the manuscript.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest in relation to this article.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Gerry King.

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