As digital technology increasingly offers exciting opportunities to enhance and transform the way patients are cared for, a number of NHS Trusts across the North East have made a formal agreement to collaborate on digital health services for the benefit of their patients.
County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust has been effectively using digital solutions across a number of its services for several years, combining technology developed by Harrogate-based digital health specialists, Inhealthcare, and the clinical expertise of medical and other healthcare professionals. This successful and award-winning collaboration led the Trust to establish Health Call to further develop the use of digital technology. In a bold move, the Trust has now awarded shares in the company to neighbouring NHS acute trusts in return for active participation and collaboration.
Delivering digital health at scale across the North East region
Ian Dove, Director at Health Call, explained, “The company is a vehicle for redefining best practice, recognising specialities and accessing the diversity of care expertise in the North East which has a population of over three million.
“Health Call will enable professionals in the North East and across the UK, to implement digital care at scale, supporting care organisations to design, develop and implement digital care services at speed.
“There are so many ways that digital technology can enhance care, patient experience and the effectiveness of our services. For example, County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust uses digital technology to support patients who use Warfarin which requires regular monitoring, including blood tests. Traditionally, this means attending an outpatient clinic but digital technology means those patients who are happy to do so can take a pin prick blood sample at home and submit the readings using a hand held device. These results are assessed by a nurse specialist who is also available for advice and who contacts any patient whose reading is a cause for concern. Our patients love this service, it saves them the time and bother of coming to clinic – they can even submit their readings from overseas if they go on holiday. One benefit we didn’t anticipate was the sense of empowerment patients have when self-monitoring – they work especially hard at managing their condition in order to get a good reading. Other UK NHS organisations have purchased this technology from us as it’s not only great for patients but means clinics can focus on patients with the greatest need.
“We also use the technology to support patients who are trying to lose weight and conversely those who are at risk of becoming undernourished, monitoring diet, lifestyle, including exercise, and their weight.
“The NHS in the North East is very good at collaboration and sharing ideas and services to make sure our patients get the very best care possible. It makes sense to extend this into the digital age so when one trust identifies an opportunity to use technology we’ll all be able to use it. This avoids the risk of wasting time and resources that are potentially duplicating development across organisations.”
Five North East NHS Trusts join the collaboration
In addition to County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, the trusts involved in Health Call are Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Northumbria Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust, Gateshead Health NHS Foundation Trust, North Tees and Hartlepool Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
Bryn Sage, chief executive of Inhealthcare and a director of Health Call, said: “This forward-looking collaboration between six acute trusts and industry allows the NHS to deliver digital health at scale to a population of more than three million people.
“It ensures a consistent approach to health and social care technology, avoids wasting scarce resources on duplicating efforts and allows examples of NHS excellence to be propagated across the region and beyond.”
Ian Dove, adds, “One of the first shared digital pathways has been developed by Gateshead Health’s smoking cessation service, which supports patients trying to stop smoking by sending supportive messages and contacts with clinicians if needed. Patients can opt to be contacted via email, text or an app and evidence indicates that this kind of support is effective during the process of stopping smoking. It’s exciting that this collaboration means all our patients can now benefit and we have a number of other digital solutions in the pipeline.”
Chief executive of County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, Sue Jacques, said, “This is a bold and forward thinking step which I’m immensely proud of. Sharing knowledge and expertise is transforming the experience and care provided to patients across many of our services.”