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18 September 2020updated 09 Sep 2021 1:44pm

Kick-starting a remote revolution

For many of the challenges escalated by Covid-19, technology could offer the solutions.

By Gavin Bashar

The coronavirus crisis has highlighted many aspects of our society that were not previously high in the public’s consciousness, increasing the focus on the amazing work of the NHS, and recognising the value of social care. We have also seen how quickly we are able to adopt new working practices if it becomes imperative to do so; initiatives such as remote health monitoring that would previously have taken months to put in place have been operational within two to three weeks.

As a long-established provider of healthcare technology to help people remain independent and access help in an emergency, we at Tunstall have been working with local authorities and the NHS during the crisis to help them support people at home and in care homes.

Community alarm technology, or telecare as it is also known, provides people with the means to easily connect to a specialist monitoring centre at the touch of a button in the event of an issue such as a fall in the home. A discreet worn device can be pressed which will activate a central hub in the home, enabling two-way speech to the operator, who can then despatch help such as a trained responder, family member or the emergency services. In addition, devices such as smoke, gas, flood and fall detectors can automatically raise the alarm to ensure a response if the individual is unable or unwilling to communicate this themselves.

A rapid response to such events can mitigate their effects; for example, the fire service attending sooner than may otherwise be the case, or avoiding a “long lie” after a fall. As technology advances, we have the capability to not just react to events, but to predict and even prevent them. For example, sensors in the home can detect usage of the bathroom or kitchen appliances. This in turn can indicate a possible deterioration in self-care, nutrition or health.

Tunstall’s next generation of technology makes care more personalised and proactive, enabling the right level of care to be delivered at the right time. By integrating different health and care systems through technology, we can move to a more predictive model based on data-driven insights. This Cognitive Care approach provides an intelligent solution which connects services, helping to transform the way health and social care is delivered.

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As much as the pandemic has brought immense pressure to bear on our healthcare system, it has also resulted in unprecedented acceleration in the adoption of technology, and, just as importantly, the new models of care delivery that make the tech a success. After years, if not decades, of debating the ways we can make our health and care systems more agile and sustainable, it is vital that we don’t lose the gains we have made as a result of the crisis. If we can harness the current spirit of collaboration and innovation, the pandemic may yet prove to be the turning point in the UK’s health and care systems.

Case study
Sadly, residents in care homes have been the hardest hit by the outbreak of Covid-19, and as lockdown eases and winter approaches it is vital that we learn lessons from the start of the pandemic and put systems in place to protect some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Bolton NHS Foundation Trust and Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group has deployed Tunstall technology in 34 care homes. Paul Beech, Head of Strategic Commissioning, Bolton Clinical Commissioning Group, said: “We’ve introduced various initiatives to proactively support the health and well-being of care home residents, but the crisis meant it became critical to look at ways we could use technology to deliver more care without face to face contact.”

Tunstall’s ICP triagemanager® and myKiosk™ systems were deployed to enable closer monitoring of the health of vulnerable residents, whilst reducing the need for clinical staff attendance thus lowering the risk of cross infection. Alerting clinicians to symptoms such as rising temperature at an early stage enables faster interventions, avoiding the need for more complex care, improving outcomes and for Covid-19 patients, enabling them to be isolated and treated as soon as possible.

Where care staff have concerns about the health of a resident, they can use the system to record their vital signs and help residents to answer questions about their health. This is then securely transmitted to the patient management software at the Community Services Hub. Results which breach the parameters set for that patient will raise an alert on the system, prioritising them on the triage screen using colour coding. Advanced Nurse Practitioners can review the data enabling them to make an informed decision regarding next steps in the patient’s care.

Joanne Dorsman, of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The systems give us objective information to support effective clinical decision making. This remote monitoring approach is helping us during the pandemic, but will also enable us to provide more proactive care over the longer term, improving the well-being of residents and helping to reduce the pressure on primary and secondary care.” She added: “The success of the programme will be measured over time, with metrics such as reduced ambulance call outs being assessed, as well as resident outcomes and the impact on caseload management.”

Gavin Bashar is managing director UK and Ireland at Tunstall Healthcare.