South London and Maudsley deploys Oxehealth’s Digital Care Assistant

Eileen Skellern 1 ward uses optical sensor technology to improve safety and monitor the physical health of patients

Oxehealth's Digital Care Assistant enables discreet, remote patient monitoring as well as measuring vital signs

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is using the Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant in the seclusion suite of Eileen Skellern 1 ward.

The women’s ward has a tradition of improving the therapeutic environment and is using the Digital Care Assistant to support clinical staff to monitor the safety and physical health of patients when they are unwell.

One of many clinical services on the mental health frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic, ES1 has risen to the challenge of providing high-quality mental and physical healthcare to patients at a time when they need it most.

And updates to the technology since the COVID-19 pandemic have also been beneficial to patients and clinical staff on the ward, supporting the reduction of close contact with patients where appropriate.

The Digital Care Assistant consists of a wall-mounted device and software, which includes a Vital Signs module that can measure breathing and pulse rate, without the need for a device or wires to be attached to the skin.

On Eileen Skellern ward, it means that clinical staff supporting patients in the seclusion suite can obtain vital signs information, without entering their room to carry out a physical examination.

The new system allows for a more-natural interaction between the patient and the observing staff member, allowing, in turn, for more of a focus on positive engagement

Dr Faisil Sethi, consultant psychiatrist on ES1, explained that taking physical health observations can be challenging if patients don’t want clinical staff to enter the room; at times it may be more therapeutic to wait, especially if it means supporting some rest or better sleep.

“Mental health patients have a much bigger burden of physical health conditions than the general population, and that can be compounded by the stress of the situation and the medicines they may have been prescribed,” he said.

“As an organisation and as clinicians, we have a responsibility to maximise the physical health of our patients. Yet taking physical observations can be difficult when a patient is in seclusion.

“This project helps us to address that challenge because, without having to be in the same space as the patient. We can collect some critical health parameters to better understand their physical health and wellbeing.”

ES1 ward has introduced a number of improvements and innovations over the past decade, including a sensory room that patients can use to manage stress and agitation, and the trust worked with an arts charity to transform the clinical environment and ensure patients have access to extraordinary art.

The Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant has been introduced to the seclusion suite as another quality improvement project.

Adenike Bolade, ward manager, said: “The Digital Care Assistant will enable us to take vital sign observations, even if we are unable to enter the seclusion room, or the patient refuses staff entry.

“We have a duty of care to patients, but we also want to respect their wishes. So this project is about using technology to ensure we can do both, and I am certain it will support physical health and wellbeing.”

The ES1 team has been collecting data for six months to check that the technology is enabling them to enhance the quality of physical healthcare when monitoring patients in seclusion.

Robert Rathouse, clinical specialist on ES1, said: “Patients who require seclusion can understandably be reluctant to engage, and this can be exacerbated by the fact staff have had to keep eyes on the patient so vigilantly.

We have a duty of care to patients, but we also want to respect their wishes. This project is about using technology to ensure we can do both

“The new system allows for a more-natural interaction between the patient and the observing staff member, allowing, in turn, for more of a focus on positive engagement.

“This positive engagement and potential for rapport building can continue once out of seclusion and make for a more-therapeutic admission from start to finish.”

Charlotte Wood, director of mental health at Oxehealth, added: “We are very pleased that ES1 ward has introduced the Digital Care Assistant as a quality improvement project that continues its tradition of innovation and continuously improving the environment for patients when they are at their most unwell.

“We are now working closely with the professional team to demonstrate that that this is the future for supporting the very-important monitoring of physical health for patients in seclusion.”

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