Telecare Service Use in Northern Ireland: Exploratory Retrospective Cohort Study

Hala Al-Obaidi, Feras Jirjees, Sayer Al-Azzam, Verity Faith, Mike Clarke, Evie Gardner, Ashley Agus, James McElnay

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Telecare is a health service that involves the home installation of a number of information technology support systems for individuals with complex needs, such as people with reduced mobility or disabilities and the elderly. It involves the use of sensors in patients’ homes to detect events, such as smoke in the kitchen, a front door left open, or a patient fall. In Northern Ireland (NI), outputs from these sensors are monitored remotely by the telecare team, who can provide assistance as required by telephone or through the emergency services. The facilitation of such rapid responses has the aim of promoting early intervention and therefore maintaining patient well-being.

The aims of this study were to construct a descriptive summary of the telecare program in NI and evaluate hospital-based service use by telecare patients before and after the installation of telecare equipment.

An exploratory retrospective cohort study was conducted involving more than 2000 patients. Data analysis included the evaluation of health care use before and after the telecare service was initiated for individual participants. Individuals with data for a minimum of 6 months before and after the installation of the telecare service were included in this analysis.

A total of 2387 patients were enrolled in the telecare service during the observation period (February 26, 2010-February 22, 2016). The mean age was 78 years (median 81 years). More women (1623/2387, 68%) were enrolled in the service. Falls detectors were the most commonly deployed detectors in the study cohort (824/1883, 43.8% of cases). The average number of communications (calls and/or alarms) between participants and the coordinating center was the highest for patients aged ≥85 years (mean 86 calls per year). These contacts were similarly distributed by gender. The mortality rate over the study period was higher in men than women (98/770, 14.4% in men compared to 107/1617, 6.6% in women). The number of nonelective hospital admissions, emergency room visits, and outpatient clinic visits and the length of hospital stays per year were significantly higher (P<.001) after the installation of the telecare equipment than during the period before installation.

Despite the likely benefits of the telecare service in providing peace of mind for patients and their relatives, hospital-based health care use significantly increased after enrollment in the service. This likely reflects the increasing health care needs over time in an aging population.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere22899
JournalJMIR Formative Research
Issue number5
Early online date31 May 2022
Publication statusEarly online date - 31 May 2022


  • telecare
  • elderly people
  • Northern Ireland
  • assistive technology
  • healthcare use


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