Berkshire trust saves £1m after telehealth pilot

Hospital admissions for COPD slashed as part of assistive technologies rollout

The introduction of telehealth has helped NHS trusts in east Berkshire to save nearly £1m and slash unplanned hospital admissions by 25 every month.

Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust and Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust were the first organisations in the country to use telehealth to screen patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The service, which operates in conjunction with an existing early supported discharge service, was subject to a year’s trial as part of an admission avoidance initiative. And the results of the pilot, published this week, show that, on average, 25 hospital admissions were avoided every month - around 1,800 bed days a year. This is a financial saving of around £900,000. In addition, clinical staff found improved self management among COPD patients using the system.

“Telehealth is helping to reduce the number of hospital admissions for our patients as it enables early reporting of exacerbation symptoms,” said Joanne King, a COPD advanced nurse practitioner.

“We also find that our patients are becoming better educated about their condition because they have a regular reminder of the symptoms they need to look out for. As a result, they are more confident at self managing their condition and they are providing us with the right information much more quickly when we do call them.”

A total of 65 patients enrolled on the study and were called twice a week by the Interactive Voice Response System from supplier, Message Dynamics. This recorded voice asked the patients five questions about their respiratory symptoms. They used their telephone keypad to answer the questions and this information was then sent back to a team at the King Edward VII Hospital in Windsor. On average, five of the 65 calls resulted in an alert, of which one or two required a home visit by a member of the clinical team.

The study recorded how many alerts were triggered, the number of contacts per patient following the alerts, what treatment was initiated and the consequence of the episode.

Pam Marriner, a respiratory physiotherapist, said: “This system compliments the admission avoidance service and has been well received by patients, leading to increased reporting and more effective use of specialist resources. The cost savings are significant when you consider the annual cost for the team is approximately £130,000.

The trusts are now looking to expand the project.

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