A managed telehealth service has saved three hospital admissions in six weeks as part of a pilot in Solihull, while supporting the discharge of patients from a virtual ward.
Air Products has four proof of concept trials in England for its managed telehealth service. Two are in Solihull and involve COPD patients in a virtual ward. The other two are in Worcester and Birmingham.
The managed service involves a GP referring a patient via an order form on a website. Air Products then enrols them for telehealth, installs the equipment – which is owned by the company – and trains the patients to use it.
Daily readings are sent to a management centre. If there are any irregularities, a staff member will call the patient to double check the reading and investigate the reason. If it is confirmed as real, the patient’s doctor can be alerted.
Cecily Harper, clinical lead for the Heart of England Foundation Trust virtual ward, said it had struggled to discharge patients, but the telehealth service was now supporting a phased discharge programme.
Patients are being kept on the ward for a month while they get used to telehealth. Then they are discharged with telehealth support for two months, followed by a complete discharge.
The service had also avoided three hospital admissions when clinicians were alerted early that a patient's condition was deteriorating and were able to administer antibiotics or steroids at home.
Harper said the virtual ward had previously trialled a different telehealth service, which involved patients texting their own results to a clinician.
The scheme only attracted two participants, as the majority of the ward’s patients are elderly and do not own mobile phones.
The trust started trialling the Air Products system six weeks ago and has recruited 21 people.
Air Products telehealth manager Shawn Lainchbury said it had been difficult to get some clinicians to “give telehealth another go” but the managed service had convinced them.
“If a GP gets an alert, they know it’s been verified; it’s something they need to act on, not something to waste their time on, which is a danger with telehealth,” he said.
Air Products claims the managed service also reduces the initial capital investment needed from health organisations, which pay per patient referred, and don’t have to buy a large number of devices upfront.
Lainchbury said his company would support trusts in putting a business case together to continue the programme. The trials last for six months at no cost to the organisation involved.
Harper said it would be great to be able to prove the business case to the trust. “It’s fantastic to have a managed service because it takes away all the hassle.
“Patients get to know the call handlers and they like speaking to someone on a regular basis - that’s very beneficial.
"We have only got involved when they red alert which is what it should be,” she explained. “It’s valuable if we choose the right patients, right parameters and the right monitoring.”
© 2012 EHealth Media.
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