How can technology alleviate winter pressures?

Remote patient monitoring, telehealth, and telecare solutions 'key' to supporting the NHS through the winter season

Telehealth programmes that enable remote patient monitoring will help the NHS to cope with the double threat of flu and COVID-19 this winter

According to the Royal College of Physicians, around a third of doctors do not believe the NHS is ready for the challenges that this winter will bring.

And, with people who catch both COVID-19 and flu at the same time twice as likely to die as those contracting COVID alone; the NHS is bracing itself for what could be the most difficult winter in living memory.

To help address these challenges, Gavin Bashar, UK managing director at Tunstall Healthcare, is calling on healthcare professionals to consider investing in new technology ahead of the winter season to help reduce the expected pressures on the NHS and other providers.

Remote patient monitoring

He told BBH: “With forecasts of unprecedented pressure on the NHS this winter, and significant lessons learned during the pandemic about the benefits technology can offer; the role of robust telehealth solutions has never been better recognised, nor the need for them more acute.

“Telehealth programmes that enable remote patient monitoring (RPM) not only protect the wellbeing of vulnerable patients, but also primary and secondary care teams, as the need for face-to-face contact and the risk of cross-infection is reduced.

“They can also help to free up hospital beds for COVID-19 patients in need of emergency attention.”

In the longer term, as the NHS looks to deliver more community-based care, RPM can enable services to be built around patients’ needs, rather than service locations

Using RPM technologies, patients and their carers have the reassurance of ongoing monitoring, and any deterioration can be identified and addressed at an early stage, reducing the need for more-complex intervention such as hospitalisation or emergency care.

RPM has also been found to empower patients with long-term conditions to become more involved in managing their own care.

And it can enable the faster discharge of patients from hospital and reduce the risk of re-admission by providing continued monitoring and management in the community.

“In the longer term, as the NHS looks to deliver more community-based care, RPM can enable services to be built around patients’ needs, rather than service locations,” said Bashar.

Technology can help to reduce the number of people who need to visit hospitals, as well as cutting re-admission rates

Stay connected

With the Government considering implementing shielding during winter to protect the UK’s most-vulnerable individuals from contracting COVID-19 and flu, and many people still taking steps to reduce contact with others, the loneliness epidemic may rear its head once again.

But this is where telecare and telehealth can help to keep vulnerable people connected and provide a lifeline to those isolating at home by linking them with specialist response monitoring centres, clinicians, social care, and other stakeholders, 24 hours a day.

Bashar explains: “This reduces feelings of isolation as they know contact is available whenever they need it, and can also support independence as their health and wellbeing is constantly monitored.

Gavin Bashar

“Telecare systems mean users can press a wearable device from anywhere in their home to be instantly connected to a trained operator, who can offer help and reassurance should they feel anxious, confused or unwell.”

And the latest technology can be personalised to monitor underlying health issues with complex comorbidities, and can incorporate screening for any emerging risk to physical and/or mental wellbeing.

It can also monitor for incidents in the home such as fires, floods, or very-low temperatures.

In addition, dedicated programmes can be developed and deployed quickly, and scaled and adapted responsively according to clinical need and the risks associated with the winter season during a pandemic.

“Available technology can also support an early response to incidents such as falls, mitigating their effects and reducing the need for hospital admissions,” said Bashar.

“This gives end users and care providers peace of mind that they’re being monitored 24/7, despite the impact of the pandemic and flu season on care delivery.”

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