Keeping patients safe with wearable technologies

The NHS is seeking to advance the roll out of virtual wards and implement more efficient ways of working, in a bid to tackle the backlog and reduce pressures on UK hospitals. Advances in mobile patient monitoring are helping to keep patients safe and support new models of healthcare delivery. Louise Frampton reports

During the first wave of the pandemic, NHSX supported a pilot that gave COVID-19 patients a pulse oximeter and an App. This meant they could leave hospital early or avoid admission altogether.1 The technology enabled patients to provide their NHS clinical team with regular data on symptoms, including temperature and blood oxygen rates, so that they could recover while being monitored in the comfort of their own home. If the patient showed signs of deterioration, clinicians could be quickly alerted and respond. 

Prior to the pandemic, some Trusts had trialled ‘telemedicine’ approaches to healthcare delivery, but the model of ‘tech-enabled virtual wards’ really came to the fore as a means of dealing with the outbreak of COVID-19. The model was pioneered by Dr. Matthew Knight, MBE, and Dr. Andy Barlow at Watford General Hospital in March 2020 to prevent hospital admissions, assist early discharge, and ease pressure on staff. By June 2021, it was available at 92 sites across England.1

Virtual wards (also known as ‘hospital at home’) allow patients to obtain the care they need at home safely and conveniently, rather than being in hospital. The Government maintains that virtual wards are better for patients and their families – minimising the time spent in hospital not only reduces the risk of infection transmission, but also reduces costs and resources associated with inpatient stays, ‘unblocks’ beds within the acute care setting, and helps ease pressure on NHS services. 

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