European telehealth trial slashes hospital admissions

12-Jun-2012

Milton Keynes project reveals major improvement in health and wellbeing of COPD patients

Results of a flagship telehealth trial in Milton Keynes have revealed a 79% improvement in the care of patients suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD).

The joint project run by Milton Keynes Council and Milton Keynes Community Health Services primary care trust (PCT) showed that 79% of end users and 88% of carers experienced major benefits from taking part in the programme, and 168 hospital admissions and 85 GP visits were avoided.

Previously, telehealth and telecare systems were run independently and service users in receipt of both services had records on each system. Not only did this approach double the amount of data entry, it also meant health and social care professionals had to make decisions based on incomplete information about a patient.

This issue was addressed within the European Union co-funded Commonwell project, which aims to overcome the communication gaps that separate health and social care service provision. Ten partners working in four member states co-operated to develop the integrated service delivery in order to better support older people and those with long-term conditions.

Health and social care systems that talk to each other enable us to give a much better response to needs. It also means the district nurses and community matrons can prioritise their workloads more easily because they have extra information about patients from the telecare equipment

Milton Keynes Council’s telecare service working in partnership with Milton Keynes Foundation Trust Hospital and Community Nursing Service provided more than 100 patients with telecare and telehealth equipment in their homes. All patients were provided with a Tunstall Lifeline Connect+ home telecare unit, which allowed them to call for help if they required assistance, either by pressing the button on the unit or on their personal trigger. This, in turn, raised an alert at a monitoring centre where trained operators were available to talk to patients 24 hours a day and action an appropriate response. The patients also used mymedic telehealth equipment to measure their vital signs daily, and these results could also be viewed at the monitoring centre, where the relevant clinician could be notified if necessary, enabling them to take prompt action to stabilise the patient’s condition and thereby avoid unplanned episodes of care, such as hospital admissions.

The project means that, for the first time, the same monitoring centre receives alerts and information from telecare and telehealth equipment, allowing both sets of data to be viewed together.

Sandra Rankin, head of service at Milton Keynes, said: “We are starting to join up information from different systems in order to get a more holistic view of the person and tailor the support on offer. Health and social care systems that talk to each other enable us to give a much better response to needs. It also means the district nurses and community matrons can prioritise their workloads more easily because they have extra information about patients from the telecare equipment. The integrated system avoids wasted home visits as health professionals can easily see on the system if, for example, a patient has been taken into hospital.”

This project highlights the way forward for whole system benefits for investing in preventative initiatives within the community setting

The pilot phase of the project ran from September 2010 to August 2011 and was subject to evaluation using quality of life measures and cost savings calculations. The results of the evaluation process, from the perspective of users, relatives and care professionals, included:

  • 79% of end users stated they experienced major benefits from the programme. These benefits included increased control/self-management, their relatives feeling reassured, fewer visits to their GP and a more active daily life
  • 88% of carers said having the system had resulted in major benefits, including being more able to help, fewer worries about the health and safety of the person they care for, and trusting that early intervention will take place if a problem arose
  • Care staff reported that the service had a positive impact on clients, providing reassurance that their condition was being constantly monitored. They also reported a reduction in exacerbations and the number and length of hospital admissions because of prompt treatment

In terms of cost savings, 168 hospital admissions and 85 GP visits were avoided based on 108 patients enrolled in the service.

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Councillor Debbie Brock, cabinet member for adult social care, health and wellbeing at Milton Keynes Council, said: “My congratulations go to all involved with the CommonWell Pilot, which has demonstrated to users of the service, their families and carers that telehealth can provide appropriate support and greater reassurance for the management of long-term conditions and confidence that help will be given when needed. This project highlights the way forward for whole system benefits for investing in preventative initiatives within the community setting.”

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