Hertfordshire trust expands use of virtual wards to monitor COVID-19 patients

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust first community trust to partner with Doccla to provide the virtual ward system for recovering patients

Patients across Hertfordshire will be monitored at home using Doccla's virtual ward technology

Hertfordshire healthcare providers have partnered with medical technology firm, Doccla, to support 50 COVID-19 patients to recover at home once discharged from hospital through an innovative virtual ward system.

Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust (HCT) has collaborated with East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust, NHS East and North Hertfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group, Princess Alexandra Hospital, Herts Urgent Care, and Doccla to equip COVID-19 and chronic care patients considered clinically suitable for the virtual ward care option with state-of-the-art medical monitoring tools.

Every day, each patient’s monitoring tools send automated readings and alerts of routine measurements, including blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, and temperature via Doccla’s platform to HCT clinicians, who will review and take any necessary action.

And any abnormal readings are flagged and the patient is contacted to determine if any additional intervention is needed.

Patients also receive regular routine calls from HCT’s prevention of admission team to check on their physical and mental wellbeing.

The success HCT has seen with the use of virtual wards means the trust is already expanding the service to support the care of heart failure and pneumonia patients.

I’m excited to see how this innovation can be rolled out to support many more patients with a variety of health conditions in the near future

The collaboration is also now exploring the system’s potential to help improve surgical waiting lists.

This will involve monitoring patients before their operation, to reduce the risk of cancellation due to issues such as anaemia or high blood pressure, and afterwards to enable them to return home earlier.

100% of patients surveyed agreed this equipment was easy to use, with 97% of those surveyed agreeing that the virtual ward system was helpful in managing their health condition.

Launched in January, Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust’s prevention of admission service introduced remote monitoring for COVID-19 patients using the Doccla virtual ward system to enable clinically-suitable patients to be transferred from the hospital care of East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust and Princess Alexandra Hospital to at-home monitoring.

Patients recuperating at home were then under the remote care of community-based clinicians.

Monitoring tools send automated readings and alerts of routine measurements, including blood pressure, oxygen saturation levels, and temperature

The system is also suitable for patients who can be monitored without an initial hospital admission, sometimes completely avoiding the need for a hospital stay.

Robert Thrower, a patient from Stevenage, said: “COVID really wiped me out, but being able to leave the hospital early and be at home with my children around me has been wonderful.

”The system is very user friendly and the equipment provided was obviously top of the range and everything was explained simply and clearly.

“My daughter did an incredible job looking after me, but it gave me peace of mind to know there was a nursing team keeping an eye on me all the time too and the pressure wasn’t just on my family.

“There were a few occasions when my temperature was higher than it should be and I got a call from a nurse within minutes to check on me.

We are re-imagining hospital care in a post-COVID-19 world, presenting a new way to deliver healthcare in the home safely and effectively

“Once on one of my regular calls with her I said I felt a bit chesty and within hours two nurses were knocking at my door ready to listen to my chest and take bloods.

”I really appreciated the human connection, it wasn’t just about my physical health.”

Elizabeth Kendrick, HCT medical director, adds: “This is a fantastic example of healthcare collaboration made possible by the strong relationships we have with our acute and primary care colleagues across the region, combined with the medical technological expertise provided by Doccla.

“I’m excited to see how this innovation can be rolled out to support many more patients with a variety of health conditions in the near future.”

This is a fantastic example of healthcare collaboration made possible by the strong relationships we have with our acute and primary care colleagues across the region, combined with the medical technological expertise provided by Doccla

And Dag Larsson, chief executive and co founder of Doccla, said: “We are reimagining hospital care in a post-COVID-19 world, presenting a new way to deliver healthcare in the home safely and effectively.

“COVID-19 has fast-tracked the adoption of remote patient monitoring into the NHS but, as Hertfordshire Community NHS Trust has seen, the technology produces benefits beyond the COVID-19 ward.

“As cases decline, there is room to offer a safe, effective way of managing additional chronic and acute patients when they leave hospital.”

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