Delivering Hospital at Home with Virtual Wards
The demand for healthcare is greater than ever and advancements in medicine and MedTech are leading to an ever-growing ageing population. In this future landscape of MedTech, patients can engage more closely with their treatment, healthcare providers will have options to deliver more personalised and effective care and manufacturers can optimise their operations by offering value added services. By leveraging patient independence, promoting faster discharge and avoiding health deterioration, virtual wards have the potential to transform care delivery to patients and help healthcare encourage positive outcomes.
What is a Virtual Ward?
First, let’s delve into what a virtual ward actually is. Virtual wards monitor patients away from a hospital ward, in a more relaxed setting, such as at home to help aid recovery.
With the surge of urgent care and demand for health services, the pandemic was a catalyst for the virtual ward. Supporting patients at home whilst they had covid meant the NHS could isolate Covid-19, alongside other viruses.
Virtual Wards X MedTech
Trusts are looking to the MedTech industry to deliver innovative solutions that enable remote care. Embracing technology access is no longer a major barrier to the healthcare system. Technology is being viewed as enhancing patient experience with the assumption that patients will have access to integral devices such as remote monitoring apps, wearables, or medical devices such as pulse oximeters. Virtual wards optimise scheduling clinic appointments around patients’ needs and provide support for people at the place they call home, including care homes.
How does a Virtual Ward work?
Data is communicated and received from the modem every several minutes, meaning clinical staff can monitor a patient’s vitals in case they see any signs of concern.
The key functionality of harnessing technology in a virtual ward is:
- Remote monitoring
- Data analytics from virtual wards
- Data security for patients
- Virtual communication between patients and staff
- A digital platform that creates patient support and accessibility features
- Personal health data management
Benefits of a Virtual Ward
Virtual wards aren’t suitable for all patients however, but in many situations, they are helpful, especially for those with chronic long-term conditions such as respiratory conditions or ongoing rehabilitation care. Virtual wards provide a myriad of benefits to patients and healthcare providers:
Benefits to Patients
Across the globe, hospital stays are known for uncomfortable beds, lack of privacy, constant noise, and difficult visiting times and restrictions. There is nothing worse! Especially if you’re admitted for an extended period. Anyone would prefer being in the comfort of their own home. Virtual wards allow patients to remain comfortable and relaxed, leading to mental and physical benefits.
It’s noted that equipping patients with extended control and knowledge of their health and social care needs, shifts the historical balance of power in healthcare. In this way, they enable a higher level of patient-centred care that hasn’t been possible previously and increase involvement from patients’ families and friends due to the remote nature of care.
Benefits to Healthcare Providers
- Reduced risk of overcrowding within a hospital or a care establishment.
Demand for healthcare services is growing, as advancements in medicine and technology are extending lifespans. However, caring for more patients is causing issues with giving adequate care. Between 2020-21 England experienced 4519 excess deaths, due to overcrowding and stays of 12 hours or longer in emergency departments. Removing patients with acute problems from a hospital ward and placing them in a virtual relaxed setting reduces the pressure on hospitals and clinical staff.
- More cost-effective than a hospital ward.
Reports have found that £9,081 is saved per patient when utilising a virtual ward. Other key benefits of a virtual ward from the report include:
- 484% return on investment for every £1 spent on technology-enabled care to remotely monitor patients.
- £1,047 estimated savings per patient, per day.
- 50% reduction in re-admission rate.
- 5% reduction in unscheduled emergency admissions.
- 94% of patients felt more confident about being able to manage their condition.
- 3% reduction in the average length of hospital stay.
- Secondary care beds for critical or urgent patients are available.
Allowing patients to be assisted in a relaxed virtual care setting allows beds to be reallocated to urgent or critical patients needing intensive hospital care.
- Works hand-in-hand with the existing work of a healthcare professional.
When time is finite in healthcare, virtual wards can create more face-to-face time for healthcare professionals to assist and support those patients most in need. Utilising pioneering tools and software, that allow patients to self-record their information, can aid clinical staff to prioritise their time efficiently and propel positive treatment outcomes.
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