New digital undernutrition service for care homes

Health Call improves quality of care

Health Call, a new digital undernutrition service for care homes, has improved the quality of care for residents through increased monitoring.

The service, commissioned by the Southern Health and Social Care Trust in Northern Ireland, has resulted in more pro-active treatment due to regular telephone reviews and the timely response of dietitians.

Health Call has been rolled out in 14 care homes in Northern Ireland, 11 in Newry and Mourne, and three in Armagh and Dungannon.

The service allows a closer collaboration across the NHS and care homes through Health Call’s secure web-based portal. Undernourished residents are closely monitored every one to two weeks by care home staff, who input the patient’s weight, appetite, and compliance to oral nutritional supplements (ONS) onto an online portal. If any of the patient’s data falls outside of their pre-set personal parameters, a member of the dietetic team is alerted and will contact the care home to provide dietary advice.

Consequently, dietitians save over two hours per patient enrolled in the service, which now can be spent with more-complex patients, while care home staff feel more empowered to take responsibility of the less-vulnerable patients. Previously the dietitian visited every patient every six weeks, whereas now there is a wealth of patient data that can be evaluated remotely so unnecessary dietetic travel time and cost can be avoided.

“The automated system offers great support to the dietitians and empowers care home staff to take a more-pro-active approach to monitoring their increasing number of vulnerable residents,” said Mandy Gilmore, head of dietetics at Southern Health and Social Care Trust.

“The residents and their families feel more supported too because the frequency of monitoring has been increased along with more-timely reviews.

“To stop the service would be a backward step. We couldn’t go back to what we did before.”

The Health Call system allows for fluctuations in weight and nutritional health to be highlighted early on, meaning patient’s food, drink and oral supplements can be adjusted more timely. As a result the length of time patients were under dietetic care was reduced from 6-9 months, to four months. The pilot also reported a minimum of £1,600 saving on inappropriate use of ONS.

Catherine McShane, lead dietitian at County Durham and Darlington Foundation Trust (CDDFT), said: “The pilot has improved the resident’s quality of care partly because staff are now more aware of the importance of nutrition. The responsibility is shared between the care home staff, the dietitian, and dietetic assistants. The input and support of the Health Call team in designing the care pathway has proved invaluable in its success. We hope to see this pilot encourage other trusts to take up the service and improve the care of their elderly at risk of undernutrition.”

Health Call is a joint partnership between Inhealthcare and CDDFT. The undernutrition service was built with NHS clinicians using Inhealthcare’s award-winning technology. Inhealthcare allows the secure flow of patient data into NHS systems so it can be accessed before and during consultations.

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