Smartphone and Bluetooth technology, linked to an innovative digital remote care system, has cut hospital admissions in the Stockport area by almost 40%, saved the NHS more than £2m and empowered patients at home.
A digital solution, developed by Norwegian medical software company Dignio and adopted by Stockport-based Mastercall Healthcare – a social enterprise ‘not for profit’ provider of NHS healthcare – has allowed many COVID-19 patients to remain safely at home, instead of being admitted to hospital.
Dignio opened a Manchester office earlier this year, close to Piccadilly rail station.
The same tech system has also been used in 20 care homes in the area, where it has again been helping to take the pressure off stretched NHS services.
Patients with smartphones and care home staff using tablets, download an app and can be instantly connected to devices including a thermometer, pulse oximeter and blood pressure monitor.
It means that those with mild coronavirus symptoms and residents in care homes, with a variety of long term health conditions, can be checked regularly.
Data is displayed on smart devices and transferred automatically to a web-based platform where clinicians follow up a large number of patients in what’s often termed a ‘Virtual Ward’.
Those being monitored also report their symptoms through a questionnaire, which, together with the vital signs, provides a good overview of their condition.
They also can communicate with clinicians through instant messages or arrange video consultations if needed.
COVID-19 patient, Alan Howarth, said: “It’s been really valuable to somebody in my position, who has never had covid and was unaware of the impacts that it could have had. Having that platform there to reassure you is a big thing.”
Michaela Buck, chief executive of Mastercall Healthcare, said: “It’s all about the empowerment of patients, who like the fact that they aren’t totally reliant on health professionals. They can monitor their own condition, which in itself empowers them even more.
“So far, the figures are really encouraging. We’ve demonstrated in the first six months of the pilot, based on a cohort of 249 patients, a 37% reduction in admissions to hospital and when you convert that into monetary terms, you’re looking at about £2.5m saving to the system.”
The Dignio platform provides a flexible and generic technology which can be deployed across a multitude of care settings and pathways without any additional cost to the care providers.
Dr Ewa Truchanowicz, managing director of Dignio, said: “Our tools support self management, home-based care, residential care and virtual wards.
“The solution has been welcomed by patients who have been reporting increased reassurance and feelings of safety. The system also enables clinicians to look after large numbers of patients simultaneously and safely.”
Care home staff feel empowered to deliver quality care and detect deterioration accurately, using soft symptoms monitoring with questionnaires, or stepping up to the collection of vital signs as needed.
Kay Slinger, manager at Appleton Lodge care home in Stockport, said: “The main reason that we were using the Dignio service was to reduce hospital admissions and to improve the quality of life for the residents and to make sure that they didn’t have to go in and out of hospital unnecessarily. It’s also reduced the workload of the GPs for their normal rounds.”