The telehealth monitors were given to 30 high-risk patients for a duration of five months, during which time they measured their own vital signs including heart rate, weight, blood pressure and oxygen saturation levels. The monitor is also capable of asking a series of clinical questions to further determine their current condition. Once measured the data is transmitted to the public health development respiratory nurses and/or the COPD nurses office within secondary care. The COPD nurse triages her "virtual ward" against agreed criteria and applies an order of priority to the visitation schedule, whilst those patients in need of urgent treatment are referred to the appropriate care facility.
Sheffield's innovative approach to managing the condition saw COPD-related hospital admissions dramatically decrease by 50 percent, saving the PCT between GBP 30.000 to GBP 40.000, which allowed them to purchase more monitors.
During the pilot, home visits by community COPD nurses were also reduced by an astonishing 80 percent, cutting travel costs and enabling health care staff to prioritise their workload, which ensured the most effective use of their time.
Sue Thackray, deputy head of development nursing for Sheffield PCT, stated: "The PCT has worked very hard to make the telehealth project a success and has had a tremendous amount of support from both clinicians and other parties within primary and secondary care. We have also had a great deal of support from Tunstall, who helped ensure the project ran smoothly."
The success of the project led to the Sheffield PCT being selected for the Innovative Information and Communications Technology award category, which recognizes the development of innovative applications of information and communications technology that improve the delivery of services for patients, service users or carers.
Judges chose Sheffield PCT's project as it was developed as a result of an identifiable problem, demonstrated a successful approach to change management and adoption, and showed an ability to integrate the solution into existing systems and architectures.
"Winning an award run by the NHS is a huge achievement for us and it helps raise the profile of the benefits of telehealth locally, within South Yorkshire and The Humber, and nationally too", stated Sue Thackray. "The award recognizes the many benefits telehealth delivers, it endorses our pro-active and innovative approach to caring for patients with COPD and meeting the challenge of COPD in the community. It also further strengthens our plans to roll out telehealth across a number of other long-term conditions such as heart failure within the community."
More news about Tunstall is available in this VMW issue's article Telecare provides choice and independence for people with learning disabilities and their carers.