Offsite construction methods and innovative technology help in fight against Coronavirus

Medical technology and modular buildings are being utilised by UK NHS to prevent further spread of killer bug

Health trusts are fighting to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus in the UK

Offsite construction methods and the latest medical technologies are being used to help hospitals and health centres cope with the rising number of people affected by the Coronavirus outbreak.

Modular ‘pods’ are popping up across the country as medics struggle to keep patients isolated and prevent further spread of the disease, which has so far infected more than 85 people in the UK.

These include at the entrance to the A&E department at Stoke Mandeville; outside the Urgent Treatment Centre at Wycombe Hospital; at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford; and at Doddington Hospital, the Princess of Wales Hospital, and North Cambridge Hospital in Cambridgeshire.

An NHS spokesperson said: "Following national guidance all hospitals have put in place NHS 111 pods.

"Over the coming weeks many more of us may need to self-isolate at home for a period to reduce the spread of this virus.

The spread and outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK highlights a need for alternative ways in which patients and clinicians communicate and provide consultations

"Everyone can continue to play their part by taking simple steps such as washing hands to prevent the spread of infection and calling NHS 111 first before going to the doctors or A&E if they have any concerns about, or show symptoms of, Coronavirus."

And it’s not just temporary infrastructure that is helping with the national response to the outbreak. Technology is also playing a key role.

Responding to the ongoing problems, technology firms are using existing solutions to help medics triage and treat those potentially infected in the safest-possible way.

For example, Visionable’s remote conferencing solution is helping patients to get the help and advice they need without having to visit surgeries and hospitals, where they could potentially infect others.

Visionable’s chief executive, Alan Lowe, said: “The NHS is already under strain, with resources stretched and patients experiencing long waits in emergency departments.

“The spread and outbreak of COVID-19 in the UK highlights a need for alternative ways in which patients and clinicians communicate and provide consultations.

“Technologies such as remote conferencing and video collaboration technology can bring many benefits in helping facilitate patient consultations more efficiently, as well as helping to contain the virus and ensuring emergency departments have the resources to help the most vulnerable.”

A greater commitment to the rollout of community diagnostics could help the healthcare industry slash waiting times, transform care delivery with a more-patient-centered approach, and, potentially, save many more lives

But, he warned: “This shouldn’t be a knee-jerk reaction to help manage an outbreak. Instead there is a long-term need to rethink how we deliver healthcare overall with the current resources we have and implement technology that works with the complexities of the NHS, at the same time supporting clinicians to deliver the best care to patients – wherever and whenever they need it.

This is an approach supported by Peter Harrison, managing director at Siemens Healthineers, who said the outbreak is further emphasising the fact the NHS is already struggling with capacity challenges.

He told BBH: “The outbreak of Coronavirus brings into question how healthcare services are managed on a global scale.

“In the UK, it has been suggested that doctors and nurses could be brought out of retirement to help combat the virus, and these developments highlight a lack of elasticity in our diagnostic services.

“Many people face a real danger in not being screened for other serious illnesses on time and a recent survey we carried out showed that over half (57%) of UK respondents felt discouraged from being screened for an illness, such as cancer, because of wait times.

Refero announced this week that it is offering free use of its video conferencing platform to NHS trusts and GP surgeries in a bid to help prevent the spread of the virus

“The Coronavirus outbreak has only emphasised the fact that the NHS is a system that is struggling with capacity challenges and this is impacting willingness for those most at risk to seek medical attention.

“While current resource may be focused towards the treatment of Coronavirus; the NHS must not shift attention away from the long-term need for an alternative approach to medical screening.

“A greater commitment to the rollout of community diagnostics could help the healthcare industry slash waiting times, transform care delivery with a more-patient-centered approach, and, potentially, save many more lives.”

Dan Worman of Refero

The Coronavirus outbreak has only emphasised the fact that the NHS is a system that is struggling with capacity challenges and this is impacting willingness for those most at risk to seek medical attention

Another company at the forefront of the battle to contain the virus is Refero, which this week announced it was offering free use of its video conferencing platform to NHS trusts, pharmacies, the Armed Forces, local and central government departments, and primary care organisations.

And, within the first 12 hours of the announcement, 200 GP surgeries had contacted the company with a view to using the online service.

Underpinned by Cisco Webex, the solution enables clinicians to speak to patients within hours remotely via a mobile phone or desktop device.

It will be offered free for the next 90 days.

Dan Worman, chief executive of Refero, said: “It’s very important that the public have access to medical professionals in the safest way possible for all of us, and video consultation is absolutely the best way to provide that.

There is a long-term need to rethink how we deliver healthcare overall with the current resources we have and implement technology that works with the complexities of the NHS, at the same time supporting clinicians to deliver the best care to patients – wherever and whenever they need it

”We feel very strongly that access to this should be immediate and free of charge to public services that are facing increased pressures currently.

“This is a social and moral decision by Refero, not a business one.”

And it’s not just patient-doctor communications that technology is benefitting during the outbreak.

Other companies are providing tools to help manage treatment and carry out surveillance.

Conduent, for example, has announced the availability of a new software module for its disease surveillance and outbreak management platform, Maven, configured to securely track, manage and report on cases of Coronavirus.

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