The virtual ward, which has only been live for a couple of months, is already benefitting patients like Mark by helping them to safely return home from hospital sooner. In some cases, patients have been able to be discharged on the same day.
The colorectal virtual ward is one of 10 wards currently live as part of the ambitious NHS project, which includes conditions such as asthma, COPD, community acquired pneumonia, heart failure, frailty, and ambulatory jaundice.
Powered by the Clinitouch app, patients on the colorectal virtual ward complete their daily observations remotely, rather than having to stay in hospital. The innovative new service is helping to boost capacity in surgical wards, whilst also enabling patients to return to their home comforts sooner.
This was a huge benefit to Mark Stock, 59, from Shepshed in Leicestershire, who was successfully monitored on the colorectal virtual ward for 30 days earlier this year.
Following a bowel cancer diagnosis in 2020, Mark underwent surgery for a temporary stoma to allow the bowel to heal. Three years later, and now in remission, he returned to hospital for a stoma reversal surgery – with his recovery this time taking place on a virtual ward using Clinitouch remote monitoring technology.
“When I had the initial bowel surgery three years ago, I was in hospital for a total of 11 days. This time round, I was only in hospital for six days before I was released with this new equipment.
“When you’re in hospital and they’ve done the job, all you're doing is having the observations. You’re still in pain and you're still taking tablets for the pain. So, when they told me with the equipment that I could be released and do that myself, I flew at the chance. The thought of getting out of hospital in six days was quite a relief.
“I think when you're at home, you can relax, and you get stuff done. You're in your own environment - you feel better, and you sleep properly.”
Mark’s recovery was monitored closely by his surgical team, who used daily questionnaires and vital sign readings to keep track of his symptoms. The questions were written by colorectal surgeons and designed to identify the most common signs of complications, including wound changes, pain, and fluid intake. By monitoring patients closely, the aim is to not only enable them to leave hospital sooner, but also to help reduce the 30-day re-admission rate.
On day three post-discharge, Mark’s clinical team intervened to adjust his medication as his recovery continued:
“After about three days, I got a phone call in the afternoon from my doctor, who said, ‘Mark, we've seen your last review, and we want you to stop your ibuprofen tablets’. At that time, the pain was easing a little bit, but I never thought about how we were going to stop them. So, I stopped taking ibuprofen tablets and because you're recording your pain levels on the app each day, they could track that it was working. I was actually taking less tablets and still getting better at the same time.”
“The phone calls happened probably three or four times during my time on the virtual ward, including once when my heart rate dipped slightly. They're on the ball all the time, looking after you and you can do the same with them. You've got their contact number, so you can phone them anytime you like and ask them questions, which I did a couple of times.”
“I would definitely recommend Clinitouch because again, it can get you out of hospital sooner. The equipment is so easy to use. I mean, why wouldn't you do it?”
Dr Noel O’Kelly, Medical Director for Clinitouch, added: “This is a really exciting application of our Clinitouch technology, and hearing Mark’s story is testament to the difference remote monitoring can make for patients. As well as the obvious patient and clinician benefits this virtual ward brings, it’s also a fantastic use case to show the scope of digital health to truly transform healthcare in the UK and beyond.”