Perspectives: Could the telehealth VIMPRO model save the NHS from drowning in demand?

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today’s Perspectives is from Adam Hunter, CCO at Phlo Connect, an API-driven pharmacy infrastructure platform to deliver enhanced patient and clinician experiences. Phlo Connect integrates with prescribing technologies and digital health platforms used by the NHS and by private healthcare providers, from the initial consult and prescribing, and processes the request through to patient delivery. This article discusses how Vertically Integrated Micro-Providers (VIMPRO) can work in partnership to streamline NHS services using technology and telehealth.

Interested in being a Perspectives contributor? Contact Editor Donna

The NHS is in crisis: with staff vacancies currently exceeding 130,000, elective care waiting lists are predicted to exceed 10 million by March 2024, and up to 22,000 appointments are cancelled every single day.

Speaking at a King’s Fund conference in London earlier this month, NHS Chief Executive Amanda Prichard told delegates that demand on national health and care providers is rising so quickly that patients are not always getting the level of care they deserve. Highlighting a projected £7bn NHS budget shortfall, she went on to emphasise that “We’ve got to shift the model of care from one that does late diagnosis and expensive treatment to one that does faster diagnosis, better treatment and better value for the taxpayer in the process.”

Such a model, where all patients can access timely, preventative care without exorbitant cost, is one that every developed national healthcare system aspires to adopt. Navigating the practicalities and finding the capacity for transformation has to date stalled the full realisation of this. However, gathering pace in the past decade has been the VIMPRO model of healthcare delivery, which is increasingly proving to be a successful way of meeting the needs of underserved patient groups and alleviating pressures. At this time of critical need, could this model save struggling public systems from drowning in demand?

The VIMPRO model explained

A Vertically Integrated Micro-Provider (VIMPRO) is a telehealth provider focused on delivering an end-to-end service to a specific patient group. VIMPROs are characterised by excellent user experience and personalised clinician-led care, and are increasingly entering into partnerships with national healthcare providers (including the NHS) to help bridge gaps in service delivery.

One example of a successful existing VIMPRO model operating in partnership with the NHS to meet a previously unmet patient need is Leva Clinic. They are UK leaders in chronic pain management and medical cannabis treatment. The majority of their users pay to use their digital platform, where they access psychology consultations, nurse appointments, physiotherapy advice, prescription and direct-to-door medication delivery.

This is a big step in the right direction towards meeting the needs of the UK’s underserved pain patients, many of whom have spent years with inappropriate support owing to a shortage of pain specialists and lack of personalised treatment options.

Patient and system benefits

From the perspective of NHS leaders, the benefits of the VIMPRO model are multiple. Firstly, they provide an alternative point of access to care for patients who’d otherwise need to be seen by GPs and referred on to NHS consultants. This frees up system capacity and cuts wait times and workloads. Secondly, VIMPROs provide the education and information that their specific patient group needs to manage their condition and improve their outcomes. This reduces the burden of ill health on the NHS further down the line. And thirdly, when VIMPROs are integrated properly with NHS systems, all the information about the patient’s care can be tracked in their electronic record without adding to practitioners’ admin burden. 

The VIMPRO model also offers multiple benefits to patients. Convenience and timeliness of access to healthcare are primary amongst these, as they remove the barriers of geography and waiting lists that obstruct care in the NHS. Patients can be quickly connected to leading specialists and prescribers anywhere in the county, and don’t even have to leave their homes to collect their medication. In addition, accessing remote care through a VIMPRO model means that patients who are reluctant to engage with local services for support – perhaps because of stigma around their condition – are offered an alternative source of care that’s entirely virtual and distinct from other NHS services. Finally, VIMPROs often take on the responsibility of creating education materials and championing the needs of their patient vertical. For example, men’s health VIMPRO Numan hosts a medically-reviewed blog delivering advice on weight management, erectile dysfunction, hair loss, mental health and other under-discussed men’s health issues.

The future of NHS care delivery?

There is no single solution that can fix the problems facing the NHS and other public health systems around the world. Replacing the core of NHS services with a network of VIMPROs is an unrealistic proposition that would be extremely difficult to achieve. However, carefully planned VIMPRO partnerships have already proven to be effective at redirecting patient demand to where it can be successfully dealt with.

If the right streamlined system integration and tailored digital infrastructure is put in place, patients and clinicians can enjoy seamless and convenient experiences. This means no clunky transition between platforms and service providers: from first consultation to the arrival of medication on the doorstep of the patient. 

Global health needs, and our expectations of healthcare, are constantly evolving. Only by constantly evolving the models of care delivery will we be able to keep up, and right now, that means embracing the opportunities of the VIMPRO model and making it work as well as we possibly can.

Perspectives: How joined-up communications can enable connected patient care across healthcare Trusts

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today, we have a contribution from Dave O’Shaughnessy, Avaya’s Healthcare Practice Leader for EMEA and APAC. The subject is NHS England’s transition to an integrated care system and where a cloud-based communications system helps in patient engagement and care team coordination.

Interested in being a Perspectives contributor? Contact Editor Donna

Photo courtesy of Avaya

The new NHS’ integrated care system (ICS) aims to support patients across England with health and care that is ‘joined-up’ in its delivery from local councils, the NHS, and other partners. The aim is to remove the existing silos that separate hospitals, GPs, physical health, mental health, and council services from each other.

As each ICS region starts to prepare their 5-year plan, there is an opportunity for modern communications and collaboration technology solutions to play an important role in helping to address healthcare Trusts’ challenges as they work to deliver joined-up services across their ICS.

Connected Challenge

As part of a successful ICS, a Trust will need to deepen its relationship with a number of other stakeholders, including local councils, the voluntary community and social enterprise sector. This can be greatly facilitated by leveraging communications and collaboration services to improve experiences at both a local level as well as scaling the solution across the region. In this way, what were previously isolated pain points can be solved across the whole ICS.

Four Areas for Improvement

There are four key practice areas where cloud-based communications and collaboration solutions can help maximise the positive transformation of the patient and key worker experience – patient access to care, patient experience, team member experience, and collaboration across an ICS. Let’s add some details to these four areas:

  1. Improving patient access to care includes managing healthcare appointments, prescriptions, payments, and other everyday administrative tasks in a way that works effortlessly for all parties, constructive access to healthcare specialists where control of access is maintained by support staff, enabling more complex remote treatments and monitoring whilst maintaining a high quality of care; and effective, non-repetitive, digital data capture and organisation to reduce the administrative burden on both patients and staff.
  2. Creating an engaging patient experience includes integrating digital therapeutics to enhance and modernise traditional care, creating scalable, even automated on-demand patient health services to help avoid overwhelming hospital staff; ensuring these digital services are intuitive, easy to learn, and practically accessible to all patients and staff; creating more personalised and therefore meaningful care experiences cost-effectively and rooted in scientific and behavioural understanding.
  3. Enabling beneficial care-team coordination, to help staff focus on delivering healthcare services, will include being able to contact and communicate with the required staff resources (e.g. on-call specialists, hospital orderlies) with the minimum of effort or time-wasting steps; making best use of scarce specialist resources to tackle the elective backlog without adding to burnout, and leveraging the best features from communications and collaboration services to help remove frustrating siloes and operational complexities.
  4. Collaboration with healthcare providers across the ICS includes creating consistent, beneficial experiences across regions despite variations in age and quality of infrastructures; removing duplication or confusing patient treatments across Trusts and other care providers; maintaining compliant data governance and security to create ‘joined-up’ care without adding to staff burnout, reduction in hospital alarm notifications and messaging fatigue, and maintaining clear roles and responsibilities for transformation projects to prevent delays.

When collaboration and communications services are connected across the entire patient journey from before a visit, during a visit, and then after a visit, they become integral to the improvement of the total experience for patients, clinical staff, and back-office staff. It can be a good idea to start off by using a benchmarking tool to measure against industry standards, and so get a good idea of a healthcare provider’s innovation readiness.

Perspectives: Creating consistent standards isn’t a once and done job

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today’s contribution is from Rhod Joyce, Deputy Director of Innovation Development at NHS Transformation Directorate and previously Head of Partnerships for NHSX. As Deputy Director of Innovation Development within the NHS Transformation Directorate, Rhod works to support the ecosystem in the development, assurance, and deployment of digital tools and services at scale. Key programs include the Digital Health Partnership Award and the Digital Health Technology Assessment Criteria. He drives support for patients to access digital health apps to support the management of long-term conditions and leads the Transformation Directorate’s Partnerships team.

This is the second Perspectives contributed by Wysa, an AI-enabled therapy coach for mental and emotional wellness. It recently was granted an FDA Breakthrough Device Designation prior to premarket review. 

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (Pictures and graphs are welcome)

Technology is evolving and becoming more and more commonplace in healthcare. As a result of the pandemic, more people are open to the idea of digital treatment tools, and the NHS has pledged to provide ways to ensure that digital inclusion is accelerated. On-demand healthcare, virtual reality, online treatment sessions, big data, and predictive healthcare are all improving access and outcomes. Online and digital health resources can help with prevention, self-care, shared care and shared decision-making, long-term condition management, and appropriate use of urgent and emergency care.

The challenge for commissioners comes when trying to select which tool is best. There are over 350,000 digital health apps in the market, with an average of 250 new health apps being released every day. The question then becomes, how can commissioners and clinical leads uphold safety standards, whilst putting the best tools in the hands of clinicians and patients?

Historically the NHS has worked to a number of different standards, with various contributions to the Apps Library and a digital assessment questionnaire that had evolved. From a patient-facing perspective that was very complex, but it also raised issues for commissioners who had no common standard to work towards.

In most industries such as banking or travel, there is a baseline standard that everyone adheres to and knows is a minimum – an ISO or equivalent. But healthcare has been lacking. That is why we brought together all the standards so that digital health technologies that are being considered by NHS or social care organizations should be assessed against the Digital Technology Assessment Criteria (DTAC), regardless of procurement route, by the NHS or social care organization that is buying the product.

It defines standards for clinical safety, data protection, cybersecurity, and technical assurance and interrupts and also with a view of accessibility and usability and they are set out now as the absolute baseline that digital health technologies need to meet to operate safely within health and social care. While DTAC is intended to be a ‘one size fits all’ baseline criteria in terms of safety and security, it is intended to be part of procurement, it is not intended to be the complete question set for procurements and should be supplemented with additional specifications including any policy and regulatory requirements.

Because clinical safety isn’t a once and done thing. Having a set of standards does not mean that once that box is ticked an application is fine and available to use for everyone. It’s necessary to continuously uphold clinical standards and safety logs that prove efficacy and excellence. Every interaction, assessment, and engagement will result in new information that needs to be tested against the appropriate criteria. A clinical safety risk profile is dependent on a daily update.

When we look at developing standards we need to look at a systems focus, national programs, and patient-facing criteria. These areas are three very different things but in the past have been looked at together, which has muddied the waters. DTAC applies to all types of digital health technologies, from electronic patient records to public-facing health apps.

By ensuring that the patient needs and healthcare system requirements are front and center of every development, every innovation, every interaction, we can be sure that we are delivering the right tools for truly personalized care. That commitment can’t be a one off. If we’re going to do the right thing, let’s do it repeatedly. Only with a common set of standards that are continually being addressed and revisited, can we safely operate and allow for the innovation and progression that the NHS needs to meet an increasingly complex and varied range of needs in a modern healthcare setting.

Perspectives: why digital apps need an in-house clinical safety lead

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today’s contribution is from Emma Taylor of Wysa, an AI-enabled therapy coach for mental and emotional wellness. It recently was granted an FDA Breakthrough Device Designation prior to premarket review. Ms. Taylor is Wysa’s UK child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS) Clinical Lead and Clinical Safety Officer. She is a clinical nurse consultant specializing in children and young adult mental health, including digital mental health.

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (Pictures and graphs are welcome)

One of the reasons that the NHS is so widely loved by patients and revered around the world is its commitment to doing the best thing by patients. Where many patients are is online. With over 350,000 digital health apps on the market, and an average of 250 new health apps released every day, how can we uphold safety standards while putting the best tools into the hands of clinicians, patients, employers, and employees?

Unfortunately, most tech and digital organizations don’t have in-house clinical safety officers to be accountable for clinical safety and ensure that effective clinical risk management is carried out at all stages of development and deployment.

A clinical safety officer’s role is to ensure that conclusions which are drawn are complete, objective, and based on robust evidence. Often that means pushing back and drawing an inference that perhaps a particular intervention or tool is not right for a section of the population.

Having an in-house clinical safety officer at a technology company enables them to be faster moving without compromising on integrity and safety. Having this capability in house allows a tech company to accelerate innovation in a way that is safe and aligned to both system-wide and patient needs, bearing in mind what the NHS needs to deliver the best health outcomes for the population.

As well as in-depth understanding of the rigorous evidence bases for the interventions we are delivering, we have to look at the wider context in which a tool is operating. So within mental health, it’s about seeing social media trends, and the impact that viral videos for example might be having. It’s about seeing the effects of the economy and the cost of living. Or world events and worry. It’s about looking at the language people are using and ensuring any AI language processing picks up on potential nuance and is aware of flags for concern. Most importantly, it is about working with service users to understand the contexts within which they use the technology and how they need it to work for them.

It is also essential to listen to users, and reflect and identify the experiences of people and what they want, need, and what works for them. Young people want more digital tools for mental health. That is what they are telling us. But not every technology company is doing the right thing. If they do not have clinical safety at their core, negative outcomes can occur. A clinical safety officer is constantly asking questions. What happens if this is taken out of context? What happens if something interacts? What if someone hacks? And ultimately what is the clinical risk?

Working as a clinical safety officer is an incredibly collaborative role, where it is necessary to collaborate with service users and staff across organizations such as ORCHA as well as the NHS. This means that we are able to embrace the legislative changes and be part of the conversations around what needs to be in the next round of legislation, to keep safety standards as high as possible.

Risks are always shifting and changing, and an in-house clinical safety officer means that clinical safety documents are kept up to date and implemented so that patients get the best outcomes. It’s important not to get caught up in the capabilities of technology in and of itself, and to ensure that the digital tool is safe and aligned to the real world and the system in which it operates. In the end, having a clinical safety lead is about patient safety and creating an environment that digital health care is an integral and robust part of, innovating for the best patient outcomes.

Perspectives: Where next for technology-enabled care after 2025?

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today, we have a contribution from Adrian Scaife, Global Product Manager at Tunstall Healthcare Group. Can telecare save the UK more than £14bn over the next 10 years, as FarrPoint projected–or is that an underestimate based on the past? Can we do better than this?

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (We like pictures and graphs too)

FarrPoint recently published a report showing how extending telecare services to more people could save the UK more than £14bn over the next decade. While £14bn is no small sum, it is based on the evidence of hindsight and importantly through current models of reactive service provision.

In a LinkedIn post I boldly suggested that this should be an underestimate of the benefits that Technology-Enabled Care, associated with a wider transformation of care, could deliver over the next decade.

With increasing demand for care and support combined with finite resources for provision, the statutory care system is facing a perfect storm. The cracks have been appearing for some time but have become apparent to a much wider audience during the Covid pandemic. To be blunt, the current model of care provision is unsustainable in the medium term. (And many would argue today!)

By moving to more preventative, personalised, joined up and proactive service models, supported by communities as well as statutory services, the benefits are potentially much bigger across the whole care ecosystem. (The care ecosystem includes health care, social care, housing, the third sector and, the largest group of all, informal family carers.)

Source: Social Care Future  

This new vision is being discussed by many people and organisations across the care ecosystem and has been referenced, in whole or part, in a host of reports over the last couple of years. What is most encouraging is the consensus around the direction of travel.

The real challenge is the transformation of services from purely reactive, one size fits all, to a preventative and person-centred approach across housing, social care, health care, and the third sector, supported by families, friends, and communities, while still retaining a reactive safety net.

There are important questions around the how? Enabling and underpinning these new service models will be technology using data, information, and actionable insight. New technology has already created dramatic changes in many other sectors across the UK. There is a huge demand for a new set of tools that can, for example, flag everything is OK today or when an early intervention may be required. These tools will work on an individual personalised basis and all the way up to the population level. Joining up data and using insight provided by analytics will enable new high value timely personalised interventions and provide improved outcomes for all stakeholders. 

The good news is that there are a huge variety of companies already working on these challenges from start-ups to SME’s, larger companies, and even global players. The real challenge will be around people (e.g., new working practices) and processes (e.g., new models of commissioning), and of course, culture. Part of the new story will be about enabling working across all stakeholder groups and indeed recognising families as equal partners.

Finally, this is not a transformation that will take place overnight or even within a year but a journey that will take five or more years before it reaches any type of maturity. The green shoots already exist if you look for them, they may be a little tender and frost sensitive, but they are growing! It reminds me of the early telecare journey in the late 90s and early 00s when many could not see how it would scale to where we are today!

While £14bn from traditional reactive services would be welcome, the real opportunity for improved outcomes for all stakeholders across the care system is much greater and not just in an economic context. Personally, I am enormously excited to be playing a part in enabling those tender shoots to grow, thrive, and become the norm over the next few years.

Further reading:

Perspectives: How enhanced digital communications can improve patient engagement

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today, we have a contribution from Dave O’Shaughnessy, Avaya’s Healthcare Practice Leader for EMEA and APAC. The subject is the hot button of patient engagement–how telehealth and virtual care systems can be used to connect patients to providers, improve patient understanding, and increase both patient and provider satisfaction.

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (We like pictures and graphs too)

For most of us, the term “patient engagement” seems straightforward. Patients who come in for their annual exams or patients with a chronic disease who regularly take their prescribed medications are considered engaged patients. But what about the rest of us who feel reluctant to contact our GP when we have health concerns or don’t take our prescribed medicine when we should. If these people were better engaged, their patient experience and outcomes would be improved.

Communications technology that was once considered cutting-edge is now holding healthcare back and one of the most significant obstacles to building an engaged patient experience is the traditional calling-centric communication model. Today, implementation of virtual care systems (telehealth), especially via cloud-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) applications that can be accessed from smartphones or tablets, improves patient engagement levels, and directly contributes to their overall health and outcomes.

So, what should a healthcare provider look for in a modern cloud communication and customer engagement solution? Here are four vital components for starters:

A unified communications platform

A unified communications and patient engagement platform in the cloud provides seamless connections across modes of communication (voice, messaging, chatbots, online meetings, and video), as well as devices (desktop, mobile, and tablet devices). Because it’s all integrated, patients get to use their communication channel of choice over their device of choice, and providers get the features they need to ensure that patients can engage a suitable person when they get in touch. In addition, self-service capabilities such as automated messages for appointment reminders and confirmations help to dramatically reduce time-wasting no-shows for healthcare organisations.

Real-time communications and collaboration

Provision of care requires constant and intuitive access to clinical information and the ability to effectively and efficiently communicate across dispersed teams to exchange critical information throughout care-coordination workflows. Effective and secure real-time collaboration across all communications channels helps staff reach the right people across the organisation at the right time using the most appropriate mode of communication. Most critically of all, these communication services for clinical staff must be easy-to-use, leveraging features like Single Sign-on authentication across multiple apps on a mobile device and offering intuitive click-to-call or team-calling abilities helping teams collaborate easily and rapidly.

Follow-up Patient Engagement

When patients aren’t engaged, they are less likely to follow instructions, resulting in more frequent readmissions. Cloud-based communications solutions with features such as click-to-chat and click-to-video allow patients to keep informed of what, and when, they need to take action for positive health outcomes. Providers can also add automated outbound patient notifications using SMS or Chatbots to follow up on patient satisfaction surveys, freeing critical staff to focus on in-office patients and higher priority, higher quality services.

A Secure and Flexible Platform

To avoid the security pitfalls of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), healthcare provider staff need a “one-device, two numbers” experience that enables them to securely use one device for both personal and business. And lastly, a communications solution should be able to seamlessly integrate with the most common digital systems used by healthcare professionals.

With the cloud, communication and collaboration can become integrated into one solution that works the way patients and providers work—across any device, anytime, anywhere. Most importantly, the flexibility of cloud communication—particularly when it comes to solutions with open platforms—means providers can add new capabilities in minutes, with almost immediate access to the latest innovations. Look to partner with a solutions provider that has proven experience in patient engagement and experience solutions.

OnePerspective: How the shift from analogue to digital telephone services affects telecare provisioning

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to provide a personal perspective on issues of importance to readers. This week, Charlotte Rathbone, Product Account Manager for CareUnity Digital, Chubb, examines the ongoing transformation of the UK telecommunications industry and how the shift to digital technology will affect telecare provision.

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (Pictures and graphs/infographics are welcome)

According to the Technology Services Association (TSA), the representative body for technology-enabled care, more than 1.8 million vulnerable people* rely on telecare in the UK. In most cases, telecare consists of a care alarm in a person’s home, which when triggered by pressing a button or an automated sensor, sends data via the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) to a monitoring centre, where an operator will give advice or seek help.

The UK telecommunications industry however is undergoing rapid change. By 2025* all analogue telephone services across the UK will be switched off as infrastructure is upgraded to digital connectivity. This approaching switch highlights the need for dedicated digital telecare solutions. 

So how will this affect telecare services in the UK?
As early as 2023*, British Telecom (BT) customers may not be able to buy an analogue phone line. Instead, BT will move its customers to a digital Internet Protocol network in readiness for the shutdown of traditional telephone lines in 2025. It’s then that we’ll see the PSTN and all Integrated Services Digital Network lines switched off. These lines are currently used by many telecare services to feed alarm data into their monitoring centres.

While the digital migration is underway, analogue telecare alarm services are reporting a rise in the number of failed alarm call attempts – with one service provider reporting a failure rate of 11.5% for the first alarm attempt*. This is concerning.

Another concern is failed care alarms through loss of power. When analogue alarms run on a digital network, they require a router to be plugged in at home. In the event of a power failure, this router will stop working, so if a vulnerable person triggered their alarm, it would duly fail.

It’s little surprise that telecommunication providers and Ofcom are all recommending a shift away from traditional analogue devices to digital devices to ensure consistency of access to care*. Some countries including Sweden are ahead of the curve when it comes to switching to digital. More than 95% of Swedish digital alarm installations now use mobile network connections*. There is some way to go in the UK.

Currently, there are approximately 1.6 million analogue telecare devices** across the UK that need to be changed to digital-dispersed alarm units so it’s going to be a gradual process. There are, however, benefits for telecare service providers that make the change sooner rather than later. 

Why switch now?
As we approach the switchover date, the time to replace analogue units in the field reduces. This will likely result in significant resource pressures for customers to complete the transition; by switching early, this can be completely avoided.

References
*TSA, 10 Facts about Analogue to Digital: How it will affect telecare.   ** TSA survey of service provider members, May 2021.

Hat tip to Kathryn Ranger of PRG Marketing Communications

OnePerspective: Covid-19 accelerates digital stroke care for the East of England

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to provide a personal perspective on issues of importance to readers. This week, Lynda Sibson, telemedicine manager for the East of England Stroke Telemedicine Partnership, reflects on how the coronavirus pandemic enabled its successful service to move into new areas at speed.

Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (We like pictures and graphs too!)

The East of England Stroke Telemedicine Stakeholder Partnership was set up in 2010 after a review found the region was struggling to meet national target times for delivering ‘clot busting’ drugs to patients with acute ischaemic stroke.

A shortage of consultants made it impossible to offer a 24/7 consultant-led thrombolysis service at all of the region’s hospitals, but long journey times made it difficult to transfer patients quickly to specialist centres.

Now, when a suspected Acute Ischaemic Stroke (AIS) patient arrives at one of the seven hospitals that we support out of hours, a telemedicine cart is taken to their bedside by the local stroke team. The stroke nurse specialists quickly establish the video link to a specialist, on-call consultant, using technology from our partner Visionable.

Since the telemedicine service commenced 10 years ago, up to the end of March 2021 we have assessed over 4,300 patients. Of these, 1,846 were thrombolysed, and just a fifth of those who weren’t had missed the national 4.5 hour target (the rest saw their condition change or were not experiencing a stroke).

A health economic analysis by the University of East Anglia showed that the service is cost-effective and delivers clinically effective outcomes for patients, with reduced length of hospital stay. So, we have been looking to expand.

Pilots and frustrations:

Supported by the Eastern Academic Health Science Network’s (AHSN) Digital Pioneer Programme, we were able to run a feasibility study undertaken with East of England Ambulance Service NHS Trust. In conjunction with Ipswich Hospital, we have been exploring how we can utilize the existing telemedicine system to assist paramedics in the assessment of ‘stroke mimics’ more effectively. Up to 40% of stroke presentations are ‘stroke mimics, and commonly include mini-strokes (known as Transient Ischaemic Attacks) and migraines, amongst others.

The paramedics were provided an iPad with the Visionable app loaded on it, so they could use it to contact the stroke consultant for advice and the aim was to avoid admission to A&E since most strokes mimic patients can be safely managed in a less urgent setting than A&E. In our feasibility study, all but one patient (who had a chest infection) avoided this trip to A&E, with most patients being managed in a follow-up hospital clinic or by their GP.

We plan to roll this project out across the region, commencing initially with Ipswich, Norfolk & Norwich and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital King’s Lynn. We are also currently running a daily pilot at Ipswich Hospital, and later with The Queen Elizabeth Hospital Kings Lynn, of a virtual ward round for low-risk stroke patients who need consultant review within 14 hours of admission, to meet government targets. Early data suggests that this is working well, with positive feedback from both stroke consultants and the stroke specialist nurses.

Let’s learn lessons and keep up momentum:

Virtual consultations and just one of the many tools that can be used to address healthcare challenges, and it is important to make sure that they are deployed appropriately, safely, and effectively.

In ten years, we have learned a lot about IT infrastructure, technology, and its associated governance: we use Visionable because it enables the consultant to see the patient, is user-friendly, and meets IG because no patient identifiable data is transmitted over the video link.

We have also learned that finding clinical champions, supporting the consultant team, and training junior doctors and base teams are essential. However, we have also shown that digital consultations work; and the wider NHS has just learned the same lesson in the pandemic.

Let’s keep using technology-enabled care to support clinicians and make sure patients have access to safe, high-quality care they need, when and where they need it.

Always remember FAST – if ANY of the following – FACE, ARMS, SPEECH are affected, it is TIME to call the emergency services for help.

Hat tip to Chloe Bines of Highland Marketing

Perspectives: How Advanced Communications Technology Has Created A ‘New Normal’ In Healthcare

TTA has an open invitation to industry leaders to contribute to our Perspectives non-promotional opinion area. Today, we have a contribution from Dave O’Shaughnessy, Avaya’s Healthcare Leader for EMEA and APAC, with a brief discussion of how AI and advanced communications technology can help healthcare in the long term. (It’s hard to say ‘a post-COVID world as France and Germany are experiencing second round lockdowns, and UK may not be far behind.) Interested contributors should contact Editor Donna. (We like pictures and graphs too)

Across industries, we see working patterns being transformed to create the ‘new normal’ as a result of COVID-19 and our reactions to the pandemic. The healthcare sector has been no different. The pandemic and its restrictions have brought a great number of new challenges to healthcare systems. And as has been the case across so many other sectors, communications technology has stepped in to plug the gaps caused by the pandemic.

The good news is that, not only have communications solutions successfully plugged the gaps, but they’ve also provided a blueprint for the future of healthcare. As we’ve found in other industries, we’ve actually seen the intelligent adoption of this technology lead to better experiences for patients, and better outcomes for providers, than were present before.

The most important (and immediate) area where this is most obvious is in contact tracing – tracking the physical, interpersonal interactions of those who have tested positive for COVID-19. This helps identify people who may need to be quarantined more quickly, therefore reducing the spread of the virus.

Helping government and healthcare organizations across the world with their contact tracing efforts, what we’ve found is that the most effective contact tracing efforts make use of artificial intelligence and automation. After all, the effort involves mountains of meticulous information gathering and analysis—all required to meet standards set by global health and government agencies. Acting upon that data manually just isn’t feasible, given the immediate needs at hand.

Therefore, the best systems employ AI virtual agents for initial patient contact, as well as for the simple data collection interactions – only falling back to live agents when the interaction becomes more complex. AI is also employed to deliver cloud-based, proactive notifications to automatically reach out to individuals or groups with optional response tracking, text interaction, and auto-forms to capture critical information.

Patients benefit from a smoother experience while providing the tracing information required, while healthcare providers and governments are able to collect more information with the resources they have.

Even without these focused AI technologies, however, our customers are putting their advanced contact centers to good use in combating the pandemic. In Saudi Arabia, for instance, one medical facility adopted a multi-experience approach, making it easy for patients to get the COVID-19-related information they need through a wide range of communications channels. This provided demonstrated results for improved knowledge on coronavirus safety measures in the community.

Going forward, we see tremendous use cases for extending this technology to make it easier for patients to directly engage with their doctors through asynchronous messaging. Such capabilities are of particular interest to mental health providers, who have found themselves unable to conduct in-person therapy sessions in the face of increased demand.

All of these solutions were implemented because of specific, pandemic-related challenges. But once the pandemic subsides, they’ll continue providing value, making it easier for patients to consume healthcare services, while delivering increased efficiency for providers.

Hat tip to Mary Burtt of AxiCom UK

OnePerspective: Analogue telecare is a dead horse: stop flogging it

Editor’s Note: ‘OnePerspective’ articles are written by industry contributors on issues of importance to our Readers. They reflect the opinions of their authors and are archived under ‘Perspectives’.

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Tom-Morton-CEO.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]By: Tom Morton

Call failures to alarm receiving centres in the UK are rising but the reasons for this are currently the subject of hot debate.

The problem is linked to the roll out of the next generation network (NGN) replacing the UK’s analogue Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN), a task which will be complete by 2025.

What is not debatable is that 1.7m of the most vulnerable in our society are being placed at risk as calls to alarm receiving centres (ARCs) increasingly fail or are delayed in their delivery due to incompatibilities of existing technologies.

At the Telecare Services Association (TSA) conference in November 2017, technology-enabled care services company Appello, with circa 100k telecare system users, identified a 7.5 percent call failure rate and announced the problem as “deeply worrying”.

At the same event, Communicare247 presented a report which highlighted a significant 12.3 percent spike in call failures identified by Falkirk Council. This was part of an ongoing analogue to digital assessment program operating across 12 percent of the existing Scottish telecare user base, and significantly this spike occurred in Falkirk within a short three month period. Both Falkirk Council and Appello have published their evidence of increasing call failures in a TSA whitepaper.

The TSA white paper, A Digital Future For Technology Enabled Care, highlights that the 1.7million people in the UK reliant on telecare need answers as their service is “threatened by disruption as UK telecommunications shift from analogue to digital”.

Yet the link to call failures and the rollout of NGN has been called into question by a major equipment provider. In a recent blog, they asked a very challenging question: Are network issues causing a greater number of alarm call failures?

Their answer delivered by the blog was, in essence, ‘maybe not yet’.

In a comparison between one ARC, where call failures were high versus another where they were low, the blog claimed that “while the use of NGN networks has grown in the last few years this cannot account for the increasing trend”.

As a potential compromise, the author also said that they could overcome any potential issues through the use of hybrid terminal adaptors (ATAs).

However, evidence both in the UK and Sweden plainly demonstrates call failures increase as the network switches to digital. (more…)

OnePerspective: VA shows how technology can improve mental health care

Editor’s note: This inaugurates our new series of ‘OnePerspective’ articles. These are written by industry contributors on issues of importance to our Readers and are archived under ‘Perspectives’. For more information on contributing an article to our OnePerspective program, email Editor Donna.

[grow_thumb image=”https://telecareaware.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Gigi-Sorenson-GlobalMed.jpg” thumb_width=”150″ /]By: Gigi Sorenson

The shortage of mental health professionals in the U.S. is becoming more acute for two reasons: 1) more health professionals are encouraging their patients to seek treatment, and 2) more people now have health insurance due to the Affordable Care Act.  A December 2016 assessment showed that over 106 million Americans live in areas where there are not enough mental health providers to meet the need. Because of this provider shortage, as well as the stigma attached to behavioral health treatment, roughly half of mental illness cases go undiagnosed or unaddressed.

However, telehealth could fill much of this gap, and the beginnings of this trend are already evident. A growing number of psychiatrists and psychologists are using video and audio teleconferencing to treat patients remotely. Patients have access to this “telemental health” either in clinics and medical centers or, in some cases, through their Internet-connected personal devices. Studies of telemental health have found that it is effective for diagnosis and assessment in many care settings, that it improves access and outcomes, that it represents a portable, low-cost option, and that it is well-accepted by patients.

VA Program Sets the Pace

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) began to deploy telemental health in the early 2000s, and the VA now has the largest and most sophisticated such program in the U.S. In 2016, about 700,000 of American’s 22 million veterans used VA telehealth services. In 2013, 80,000 veterans used telemental health services, and over 650,000 veterans took advantage of those services in the previous decade.

The VA system has trained more than 4,000 mental health providers in evidence-based psychotherapies for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other mental health conditions.  It has expanded the use of telemedicine at its 150 medical centers and its 800 outpatient clinics.  It is relying increasingly on telemental health to serve its beneficiaries, partly because nearly half of the veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan live in rural areas. Mental health professionals are often unavailable in these regions, and it can be difficult for these veterans to travel to metropolitan areas where VA clinics and medical centers are located.

Telemental health can address these issues.

(more…)