As a leading provider of virtual healthcare, Inhealthcare works with NHS organisations across the UK to deliver remote monitoring services to patients in the comfort of their own homes, reducing the need for unnecessary travel to attend routine care appointments. As the NHS accounts for 9.5 billion road miles (or 3.5 per cent) of all road travel in England every year, the potential for saved journeys is significant.
To illustrate the point, take just one Inhealthcare service: the remote monitoring of patients prescribed the anticoagulant warfarin at a large NHS hospital trust in the North East of England. The drug prevents blood clotting and reduces the risk of heart attacks or stroke but users must have regular blood tests to make sure they are taking the right dose. With the Inhealthcare service, they supply regular readings from home via a choice of inclusive communication channels and if any fall out of range, clinicians are alerted and can advise on adjusting the dose. Previously, patients had to attend an outpatient appointment on a frequent basis to provide readings with all the hassle that entailed.
Patient Steve Clarke, who has a busy job as a retail manager, said: “Self-testing is a very simple and easy process. Having to attend warfarin clinic several times a month had become a real chore and was challenging to my lifestyle. I used to find it stressful leaving work at lunchtime, driving through traffic and finding a parking space at the clinic and then rushing back afterwards. Self-testing makes life much easier for me. It gives me control. I can test myself at home, work and on holiday. My time spent in ideal therapeutic range has increased dramatically. Although there is less face-to-face contact with clinicians, I am in regular contact with them and sometimes think they know me better than I know myself!”
Over the last five years, this Inhealthcare service has enabled an average of 9,800 readings per year, each one the equivalent of an outpatient appointment. If the average patient road journey is 12 miles, as NHS research suggests, the service has potentially saved up to 235,200 road miles in round trips – and 64.6 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, based on calculations using an average petrol car. That’s a potential saving from one service of 1.17 million road miles and 323 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent over the last five years.
If 100 trusts were to adopt the service, our NHS partner organisations would be saving 23.52 million road miles and 6,460 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent every year, a not insignificant chunk of the total NHS road miles. With our company growing and adding more patients to more services, such savings are only going to increase in the future, an outcome to be welcomed in the challenging journey towards net zero.
Virtual care is now seen as central to the NHS. When the prime minister promised “new digital technology so doctors can monitor patients remotely in their homes” as part of the biggest catch-up programme in NHS history, it was an absolute acknowledgement of the vital role that virtual care will play in the future success and sustainability of our health service. Most recent figures show there were nearly 125 million outpatient appointments in 2019-20. The technology that was adopted so rapidly during the pandemic can help many of these to take place remotely rather than in person, promising further progress against decarbonisation targets.
Other savings can be made from the spread of innovation in healthcare. Clinicians can focus on those patients who need the most care, freeing up capacity within the healthcare system. Patients no longer have to travel for miles to attend clinic, saving time and money. Research demonstrates that remote monitoring improves health outcomes and increases access to health services, especially among disadvantaged communities. As well as tackling climate change, improvements in air quality reduce cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and lung cancer and help avoid premature deaths. By enabling healthcare providers to offer remote monitoring to patients, Inhealthcare is proud to be helping the NHS move to net zero.