‘Virtual hospital ward’ to monitor Lewisham patients

The scheme will include oxygen monitors for patients to use at home. Pic: Tetiana SHYSHKINA

A pilot scheme tracking the health of Lewisham patients at home to prevent the need for hospital visits has been launched.

The pilot, which is managed by the Lewisham Healthcare Partnership (LHCP), has been designed to create a virtual equivalent of a hospital ward, as pressures on the NHS continue to mount.

LHCP is a partnership between the London borough of Lewisham and the NHS South East London clinical commissioning group (CCG) of Lewisham. Both partners fund the pilot.

Lewisham Councillor for Health and Adult Social Care, Chris Best said the pilot would use technological methods, which would give feedback to clinicians so that the patients’ progress could be monitored.

Best said: “There is a range of equipment depending on the condition being monitored at home including digital blood pressure monitoring.”

The healthcare company that supplied the monitoring system for the project, HN, said: “Patients being supported via this service will have ongoing access to healthcare professionals who promote self-care and help manage anxieties associated with their condition.”

‘The comforts of home’

UKAuthority says that “60 Lewisham patients” will benefit from the pilot, in which 30 places will be given to those with respiratory conditions and the other 30 will be given to residents with diabetes.

The digital nature of the development has also enabled inpatients to return to life at home.

Best told ELL:  “I have a neighbour who has trouble breathing and an oxygen tank has been provided at home along with the O2 finger monitor [that measures oxygen levels] to ensure there is enough oxygen in the blood.

“He is delighted to be at home with the support of his family and able to have all the comforts of home.”

HN also says that the introduction of home health devices will enable an “early safe discharge from hospital for patients with diabetes” alongside respiratory illnesses.

Zoom consultations

However, as the scheme is piloted, this opportunity will be used to gain a stronger understanding of how residents prefer to receive healthcare, while adapting to the rising use of technology, during the lockdown.

Best maintains that the technological aids will provide a stronger support network for patients when they are away from the hospital.

She said: “The advent of Zoom for patient consultations and advancement in technology has supported remote health monitoring.

“The advancement has taken place rapidly because of Covid-19 and the need to respond to the demand for hospital beds during this pandemic.”

The introduction of the virtual ward is also believed to reduce levels of Covid-19, as hospital visits may expose patients to the virus, weakening their welfare.

Director of integrated care commissioning for Lewisham, Martin Wilkinson said: “We expect this pilot . . . to help to improve patients’ wellbeing whilst staying safely at home.”

NHS South East London CCG (Lewisham) Clinical Director, Dr Ravi Sharma, underpins how the digital scheme may improve the quality of care towards patients.

Sharma said: “I believe in many circumstances, housebound patients with long term health conditions would have better health outcomes if clinicians had the ability to get accurate information in a less labour intensive way. This pilot addresses such aspects . . .”

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