A pioneering pilot project between Whittington Health NHS Trust, North Middlesex University Hospital, Barnet Enfield and Haringey Mental Health Trust and digital healthcare technology provider Spirit Health, will see patients remotely monitored at home by healthcare teams this winter.
Funded by North Central London Integrated Care System (ICS), people living with heart failure and frailty, which typically affects elderly patients who lose strength, resilience and the ability to do everyday things, can now be safely discharged and be supported at home over the next three months.
Under this innovative pilot programme launching today, a patient’s care team can monitor their health condition including vital signs like their heart rate, blood pressure and temperature through Spirit Health’s remote patient monitoring platform, Clinitouch.
Using Clinitouch, clinicians will be able to pick up early signs of deterioration and act swiftly to provide appropriate care and interventions for the patient. Crucially, the technology allows both frailty and heart failure patients to be connected with their medical team to support their recovery once they leave hospital.
Patients will have access to 4G enabled tablet devices, along with blood pressure monitor, pulse oximeter and thermometer. Patients can use these to record their own vital signs for their clinical team to regularly review. All equipment provided is Bluetooth-enabled to make it easy for patients.
The collaborative pilot, which has been co-designed with clinicians working at Whittington Health NHS Trust to best meet their specific clinical needs, comes at a pivotal time for the NHS, with significant winter pressures set to hit health services.
The virtual ward provision under the Spirit Health and Whittington Health NHS Trust collaboration adds to existing face-to-face services at the hospital. As well as promoting patient autonomy, it helps to relieve pressures on the hospital’s emergency department and ensure people can leave hospital to continue receiving the care they need both safely and from their own home.
Research published by Spirit Health shows that when using remote patient monitoring, patients managing long-term conditions can reduce their average length of a hospital stay by 40% and reduce their readmission rate to hospital by 50%.
The technology has also helped to save the NHS much-needed money, with estimated savings per patient of more than £1,000.
More generally, the principle of virtual wards also ensures more patients receive the timely treatment they require, and provides the NHS workforce with the support and flexibility they need.
NHS England has identified virtual wards as helping to support and protect key services over the next 12 months, and is aiming to provide around 24,000 virtual ward beds nationwide by December 2023.
Dr. Noel O’Kelly, Medical Director for Spirit Health said: "Spirit Health is delighted to be working with Whittington Health NHS Trust to launch virtual wards to support people with frailty and heart failure, at what is a critical time for the NHS this winter.
"Through the innovation and efficacy of the technology, patients who are discharged from hospital can have access to healthcare professionals from their own homes.
"Having the opportunity to be cared for safely at home by their healthcare team, instead of being in hospital unnecessarily is a game changer."
"Our technology’s supplementary support to the ICS’s services mean frailty and heart failure patients can get back to living their lives outside of hospital more quickly and safely."
Wendy Paul-Garricks, Deputy Service Manager for Whittington Health NHS Trust said: "It’s about empowering the patient to look after their health.
"Every patient wants to be in the comfort of their own place. Being at home not only reduces the risk of hospital acquired infection, but patients are less anxious at home, and can get a better night’s sleep as wards can sometimes be noisy.
"They can eat their own food, and they can be around their family. All while we are monitoring the patient from the hospital."
Arul Bangalore, Lead Matron, Virtual Ward & Rapid Response Services for Whittington Health NHS Trust added: "Research proves time and time again that patients recover better in their own home. This is a win/win for the clinicians working from within the hospital.
"As clinicians, we make plans for the patients, but by having this kind of technology, we involve the patients in the decision making. It’s about working in partnership with the patients and promoting autonomy."