COPD telehealth trial helps Tameside and Glossop PCT boost services and save money

NHS Tameside and Glossop has partnered with Tunstall Healthcare to deploy a fully-managed telehealth service that will enhance care provision for patients with COPD and help the trust to meet its QIPP targets.

Serving a population of 240,000, the trust has a high prevalence of people with long-term conditions and in 2009-2010 heart failure and COPD alone resulted in 1,024 emergency hospital admissions, equating to a cost of approximately £2.7m. And this figure is expected to rise to £3.5m annually over the next decade.

By allowing patients to monitor their condition at home and encouraging them to be more pro-active in managing their own health, they can lead a better quality of life, feel more confident that their condition is under control and avoid frequent stays in hospital

With the number of COPD patients expected to increase by 16% over the period 2008-2020, the new telehealth service will play a key role in helping the trust provide the support needed to enable patients to manage their condition more effectively in their own homes. It will also generate significant cost savings to overcome current financial challenges.

A pilot is currently running in the area, with 60 patients using Tunstall's mymedic and icp triagemanager solutions, supporting integrated and fully-managed patient-centred care. The mymedic unit allows patients to monitor their blood pressure, oxygen levels, weight and temperature, and also asks a series of health-related questions on a daily basis.

Results are automatically transmitted to the icp triagemanager software for review and processing by the long-term conditions team based at Crickets Lane Health Centre in Ashton-under-Lyne. They are in turn supported by a team of nurses from Tameside and Glossop Community Healthcare Trust, ensuring patients receive timely support and advice when needed.

Alison Lewin, associate director of commissioning for NHS Tameside and Glossop, said: "In order to meet the QIPP target, the trust needed to generate £1m savings from the long-term conditions budget. The deployment of telehealth will be key in helping us to meet these targets, as well as supporting the delivery of other QIPP projects by freeing up resources.

"Using telehealth has enabled us to provide a higher level of support to patients with COPD. By allowing them to monitor their condition at home and encouraging them to be more pro-active in managing their own health, patients can lead a better quality of life, feel more confident that their condition is under control and avoid frequent stays in hospital. We now have a waiting list for the telehealth service and informal feedback has indicated that we are already keeping patients out of hospital and empowering them to better manage their health."

Telehealth provides a vital service to patients with long-term conditions

Alison Rogan of Tunstall added: "The telehealth deployment across Tameside and Glossop is a perfect example of best practice. By working closely with the PCT to deliver a comprehensive support package and co-ordinated project management and training, we have been able to streamline the process and implement the service within a very short time frame. Telehealth provides a vital service to patients with long-term conditions and the true success here has been the excellent leadership by the community health provider and commissioning teams."

Following the initial deployment, the Trust intends to evaluate and review the pilot with a view to rolling the initiative out to more patients, with the potential to also include the provision of telehealth to patients with heart failure.

Kath Blackhall, advanced practitioner with the long-term conditions team, said patients liked the system, adding: "As a team, we have reduced the frequency of some home visits as patients feel supported by the monitoring process and are also reassured that if problems do arise, one of our clinicians will be in contact and will arrange a visit if necessary. Members of the team who have responded to telehealth-generated visits, report they were highly appropriate. Frequent patient monitoring has identified subtle deteriorations in clinical parameters which has prompted an earlier intervention. In addition, undiagnosed pathology has been managed and/or referred to the appropriate clinician. Remedial treatments such as changes to medication have benefitted patients enrolled."

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