At the start of the pandemic, remote care solutions were deployed to help avoid unnecessary hospital admissions and reduce the spread of infection. Virtual wards were rapidly developed across the country with new infrastructure and governance processes put in place. Now, as many of the barriers to widespread implementation of remote monitoring have been removed, this approach to healthcare is being expanded to a wider range of conditions and patient cohorts.
Virtual wards allow people with a range of conditions to be monitored in the comfort of their own home. Using symptom trackers, monitoring devices, and patient dashboards, together with video calls, remote monitoring helps patients and clinicians to keep track of their health and stay alert to any signs of deterioration. The NHS in the Eastern region has been forging the way ahead to safely support people with conditions like heart failure, to leave hospital earlier or avoid being admitted altogether.
In June 2021 we were asked to help the NHS in our region to think through how technology-enabled care pathway transformation can support the radical recovery to address the backlog that has been needed post-pandemic.
When we reviewed systematic reviews and published we identified some key areas of learning with little evidence:
We then spoke to trusts in the region with experience of designing and setting up virtual wards with a view to gathering their feedback and learning in these areas and held a workshop for over 50 healthcare professionals with NHSX and NHS@home to showcase best practice and share the insight we had gathered from peers.
We brought our findings together to form an implementation support pack to help guide decisions around which remote monitoring devices to procure, which patients to use them with and the steps to take to set up a virtual ward. It includes information on remote monitoring for specific conditions, learning from virtual wards that have been set up in the East of England and a summary of remote monitoring technology. Five key lessons emerged from this work.
Eastern AHSN and the East of England Applied Research Collaborative (ARC) are now embarking on a large-scale evaluation of remote monitoring across four different regions and clinical pathways, covering hip and knee replacements, heart palpitations, chronic respiratory disease and asthma. We’ll use this to share rapid actionable learning to further support systems to make best use of remote monitoring for the benefit of patients. If you want to find out more about implementing remote monitoring pathways, contact me at [email protected]
In July 2022 we published a report which summarises our work and case studies on remote monitoring as part of the Beneficial Changes Network. The report covers heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia and remote monitoring in surgery.
Jess Garner is Senior Advisor on the Delivery team at Eastern AHSN, leading a portfolio of local projects. Before joining Eastern in January 2021, Jess led programmes of work in public health and the voluntary sector.
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