By Bryn Sage
Blog 29 October 2021

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 explicit acknowledgement of the increasingly important role that our industry will play in the future success and sustainability of our health service.

During the pandemic, digital technology helped NHS organisations to roll out ‘virtual wards’ across the UK to monitor Covid patients at home. Clinicians are starting to use the same infrastructure to expand remote monitoring to manage other conditions such as hypertension, respiratory disease, atrial fibrillation and diabetes.

Our company Inhealthcare provided the digital technology for the breakthrough Oximetry@Home programme for the remote monitoring of patients with confirmed or suspected Covid in southern England. We collaborated with NHS organisations across seven integrated care systems to design and deploy the service, which proved vital in the NHS response to the coronavirus crisis. “It was a lifesaver,” patient Chris Harris told the BBC. NHSX-funded research shared by Dr Matt Inada-Kim, the national clinical lead for deterioration at NHS England, demonstrated that it has reduced mortality, length of hospital stay, intensive care admissions and readmissions. Separate research from the University of Edinburgh concluded that supported self-monitoring of Covid patients at home is reassuring to patients, acceptable to clinicians and can detect important signs of deterioration.

NHS organisations are now widening ‘virtual wards’ to care for patients with hypertension, a condition which affects around one third of adults in the UK and can increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. A trial involving our technology and GP practices in the Home Counties found the BP@Home service helped more than a third of users move from high to normal threshold blood pressure within three months – and half of them achieved this by adopting positive lifestyle changes such as increasing exercise or changing diet. Feedback from patients has been resoundingly positive.

Remote monitoring supports patients in the place where they feel most comfortable – at home and that includes care homes. It cuts the risk of Covid infection by minimising face-to-contact, limits unnecessary travel, helping to decarbonise the NHS estate, and creates capacity within healthcare systems by automating routine tasks and freeing up clinicians to focus on those patients who need the most care.

The health technology sector has come a long way in recent years, transforming from a nascent industry into an important part of UK life sciences with a robust regulatory framework in place to ensure the safety and quality of digitally-enabled care. As a company, we have grown rapidly since the start of the pandemic and now deliver fully inclusive NHS digital and data services to more than one million patients across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. 

With the chancellor announcing £5.9 billion in capital investment to tackle the backlog of non-emergency procedures and modernise digital technology, our industry is stepping up to help the NHS recover from the worst pandemic in a century – and enable the radical innovation required to fix the long-term problems facing health and social care in the UK.

 

  • Bryn Sage is chief executive of Inhealthcare and a member of techUK’s Health and Social Care Council.
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