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Care Homes: Remote

Adrian Smith
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This blog is third in a series of four short articles exploring innovation in healthcare. Click here to read the first post and here to read the second.

Nearly 30,000 excess deaths were recorded in UK care homes in the first 5 months of the pandemic, representing a near 20% increase on previous years. The spread of COVID-19 within care homes was attributed to the transfer of patients to and from hospitals, from residents passing it on to one another, and from agency staff members working within multiple settings (LSE, 2021).

To mitigate against the spread of coronavirus, doctors limited the movement of patients in a bid to reduce deaths. Figures (from a study yet to be peer-reviewed) reveal a decrease in hospital admissions from care homes for both emergency and elective care. The largest decreases were in elective care and included treatment such as cataract surgery, which can significantly improve a person’s quality of life.

We are now in the position where these well-intentioned decisions have inadvertently contributed to the record backlog of patients needing treatment. Though seemingly unavoidable, these problems could have been mitigated with the wider use of digitally-enabled care pathways.

The solution is more telemedicine to deliver patient-centric but remote care.

NHS

The NHS recently took a major step on the journey towards remote diagnostics by giving the go-ahead for video consultations throughout the pandemic. 99% of practices across the UK now offer video consultations, covering 99% of the population, whilst 96% of practices offer some form of online consultation. (NHS, 2021).

Though positive, video consultations are not enough to properly administer care within the community. If we are to really make a difference, cutting-edge telemedical solutions are needed to ensure a diagnosis can be carried out as effectively as traditional face to face methods.

It is now possible for an ECG machine half the size of a computer mouse to be delivered to care homes, allowing carers to assist with a full remote diagnosis, whilst devices that monitor humidity levels can detect when there has been a lack of movement within a room by checking against usual behaviour patterns.

The technology to improve the system exists, but remote equipment is only as good as the connection supporting the devices. Without connectivity, the devices are redundant.

Living Lab

The Healthy Living Lab at Westcott is helping both healthcare providers and technology companies to develop new solutions that improve the healthcare system. With our own Standalone 5G core network, the Living Lab provides a collaborative space to co-design, co-create, develop and deliver technology with direct access to cutting-edge connectivity. We offer support for companies at every stage of their technology journey, providing expertise and lessons learnt from previous successful projects.

The Satellite Applications Catapult showcased the support we provide through a virtual event held in March 2021 as part of the MK:5G project. For more information on how you can get in touch, please visit https://sa.catapult.org.uk/living-lab/.