Digital health pioneers making a difference

Pilot tele-triage scheme launched among care homes in the Wirral

Boo Stone and Roger Chester from Wirral council

A pilot scheme which could reduce the number of elderly patients admitted to hospital is to be launched later this summer as part of a collaboration between council staff, the NHS, and the University of Cumbria.

Care home residents are often frail and evidence shows they’re sometimes admitted to hospital when they become ill despite the fact it’s often not the most-appropriate place for them.

Now 10 care homes in Wirral have been chosen to pilot a scheme which will link care workers with clinicians using digital technology.

The so-called ‘tele-triage’ scheme will make use of high-definition iPads which will be issued to the homes.

“Instead of dialling 111 when a resident falls ill, trained staff will be able to contact a senior nurse at any time of day or night,” said Boo Stone, transformation and commissioning lead for adult care services at Wirral Council.

I’m really proud that we’re able to offer the kind of environment where technology and practical applications can come together

“The iPad’s camera, together with information provided by staff who’ll be trained to take blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, and temperature will enable the nurse to help diagnose and recommend treatment.”

The ability to reply on a single point of contact should speed up diagnosis and, if the nurse needs another opinion, a facility will enable the opinion of other clinicians to be sought.

An additional project that runs alongside teletriage is the development of an app which will help care staff diagnose a patient who is at risk of falling, enabling the homes to take preventative action.

It’s the idea of the council’s market transformation and contracts lead, Roger Chester, who’s worked with developers to produce what he hopes will be a tool to help standardise care.

“Each home works in a slightly different way and there are a diverse range of assessment tools available,” he said.

“By offering a simple app which will be compatible with tablet and smartphones we can offer reassurance and support for staff and ensure residents get the best care when they need it.”

Elaine Bidmead, course leader at the University of Cumbria, added: “I’m really proud that we’re able to offer the kind of environment where technology and practical applications can come together.

“The two-part course is a mix of distance learning and classroom study, but the co-operation between students and debate they have is as important.”

The first module provides an introduction, demystification and overview of what technologies are available, how they can be used, and success stories from those who have used them in frontline clinical practice, followed by material on how to evaluate the benefits, how to present a business plan for change, and practical support to plan your own digital health or social care service.

Part two is a work-based project in which students are supported and mentored to implement, evaluate, and disseminate a digital project.

By offering a simple app which will be compatible with tablet and smartphones we can offer reassurance and support for staff and ensure residents get the best care when they need it

And, even before the tele-triage scheme is launched, expansion is on the cards through funding from the Innovation Agency NW.

Five GP surgeries, along with specialist speech and language therapists and tissue viability nurses, will make use of digital means to assess and keep care home residents safe and well, enhancing their quality of life.

The course has received funding from the Health Education England Forerunner Fund and the North West Coast Innovation Agency, through the Lancashire and South Cumbria Digital Health Board.

The next course starts in September.

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