Digital healthcare technology has the potential to transform healthcare. With tools like remote patient monitoring technology, we are empowering patients with more control over their own health, saving them trips to the hospital and giving them more time doing the things they love.
On Connected Britain’s ‘Delivering the healthcare revolution’ panel, our Head of Deployment Annie Karlin said, "We have only seen the tip of the iceberg when it comes to digital health. There is so much more that can be achieved by accelerating the adoption of remote patient monitoring and virtual ward technology across the UK. We’ve already shown how our platform can almost double clinical capacity and reduce readmissions by 30% - if tools like this were adopted nationwide, they could help significantly reduce the elective care backlog, greatly improve efficiencies for clinical teams and keep more patients safe at home".
But what steps need to be taken to accelerate virtual ward adoption and lead the digital healthcare revolution in the UK?
Implementing secure technical infrastructure
It is critical that we have the right technical infrastructure in place across the health and social care system. Implementing reliable contemporary infrastructure is the building block for any digital endeavour and in healthcare, this is particularly important. Clinicians need to be able to rely on a strong connection to communicate with patients and remotely monitor their signs and symptoms regularly. They need infrastructure that allows for secure systems that keep data safe, as well as platforms that integrate seamlessly with each other so that clinicians can easily access the data they need.
Similarly, patients need to have access to a reliable and secure connection where they live, so they can receive the care they need through their smartphones at home or wherever they are and feel safe enough to input their data without worrying where it will be shared.
Julie Snell, Chair of the Scotland 5G Centre and Non-Executive Director of Herefordshire and Worcestershire Health and Care NHS Trust told the panel that the life expectancy of a man living in a poorly connected part of Scotland is 24 years shorter than a man living in a well-connected area. Without good connectivity, patients cannot take benefit from remote monitoring services, which means hospitals in these areas can become overwhelmed with patients who could otherwise be cared for remotely if the infrastructure was in place. Improving connectivity infrastructure across the UK, especially in more rural areas, is a crucial first step towards ensuring the widespread adoption of digital health tools and reducing healthcare inequalities.
Information governance is often seen as really complex, but everyone operating in digital healthcare spaces has a responsibility to educate themselves. We need to be able to use and share data securely to enable better patient care while operating in line with legal regulations and with data privacy standards.
Patients also need to have complete assurance that their data is being handled with the utmost care. If they cannot fully trust the systems into which they are inputting sensitive health information, they may be reluctant to use remote monitoring technology.
Working closely with clinical teams
Having the right technology available is a key part of revolutionising healthcare, but we know it’s not the only factor. At Huma, we realise the only way to successfully accelerate digital-first care is to seamlessly embed technology into care pathways. We work closely with clinical and operational teams to implement our technology, ensuring our platform is designed to specifically meet their needs and the needs of their patients. It's critical that the design and implementation of virtual ward projects is clinically-led. Technology is in many ways the least important factor. Clinical leadership is crucial to ensure the technology solves the most pressing problem for clinicians and to successfully gain buy-in across the wider clinical team.
Building a strong evidence base for remote monitoring
As an industry, we are still in the relatively early stages of adoption of remote patient monitoring and virtual ward technologies, which can make it more difficult for clinical teams and patients to trust their effectiveness. We need to start building up a robust evidence base for the use of remote monitoring tools and the positive impact they can have on healthcare systems and patients. Here at Huma, we take the clinical robustness of our platforms seriously. Our in-house team of clinicians and researchers is dedicated to generating evidence around remote monitoring, evaluating our projects and sharing what we learn with the people who need to know. For the hospitals using our virtual COVID-19 wards platform, we provided evidence that the technology had up to four times lower mortality rates, 40% shorter hospital stays and reduced patients’ need for intensive care. The robust data we generated was then published in a peer-reviewed journal.
Next steps for digital acceleration
Technology helps us provide patients with access to healthcare wherever they are, increase capacity in hospitals, prioritise those in most urgent need of care, make the shift towards proactive and personalised care, and so much more. To make these benefits a reality across the UK, we need to make the adoption of digital tools as easy and enjoyable as possible for care teams and patients.
Digital adoption in healthcare will increase if we can:
- Implement reliable connectivity infrastructure across the country
- Build trust that patient data will be handled securely
- Educate and train clinical teams on how to use digital tools effectively
- Continue building a robust evidence base for the use of these technologies so we can clearly demonstrate how, why and when they can best be used
If they are widely adopted, digital tools, like remote patient monitoring platforms, could completely transform healthcare, helping many patients live much longer, fuller lives than they otherwise would have.
Find out more about how Huma can help.