Technology and healthcare in remote areas

Categories: Care.

Patients living in remote areas, such as those with terminal conditions, may need to regularly consult with their healthcare professionals, but may not be able to make the costly and inconvenient travel arrangements to their outpatient facilities. 

Innovation in healthcare is meeting the challenges of supporting rural patients with the use of communications technology to provide remote consultations.

Telemedicine

Telemedicine allows consultations to occur between health professionals and patients using a secure video link. This technology means that patients and health professionals save time that would otherwise be spent travelling, and get to have consultations in the comfort of their home, nursing home or local GP office.

Telehealth Hub in Airedale

The Telehealth Hub has been set up in the Airedale Hospital catchment area, which is linked to the Manorlands Hospice. The aim of the service is provide care for patients closer to home where possible.

The hub is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week by skilled nurses in acute care, and a consultant is also on hand if required. Records are kept up to date using electronic patient records, which are also shared with the GP.

So far the Telehealth Hub has made significant progress:

  • Manorlands Hospice patients can access this service
  • 636 patients across Airedale Hospital’s catchment area are linked to the Telehealth Hub, including patients with chronic heart failure, COPD and diabetes
  • 22 nursing homes will eventually be part of the hub
  • six GP surgeries are also connected
  • a community hub has been established in the village of Grassington for outpatient consultations.

Geoff, a patient who has sadly passed away, had diabetes, several chest infections and a number of health complications. He rarely left his bed, and visiting the hospital became impossible. However, he still required consultations with the health professionals who were working with him. Video link access to the Telehealth Hub was made available in Geoff’s home.

His wife Margaret said: “Telemedicine became our lifeline – what a wonderful piece of equipment! At the press of a button we could have face-to-face contact with a medical team, which is so important for both a patient and carer, and that helped to keep Geoff’s spirits high.”

A number of video interviews of patients who have used the service can be found on the Airedale Digital Healthcare Centre website.

Smartphone app for 

According to the Emergency Medical Retrieval Service (EMRS), 10% of Scotland’s population live more than an hour’s travel from a hospital with an intensive care unit or an emergency department. An app developed by the EMRS has recently won two national awards, the EHI Award for ‘Best Use Of Mobile Technology Healthcare’ and the NHS Scotland eHealth Award for ‘Best NHS Scotland use of mobile technology’.

The app allows emergency medical teams to give clinicians realtime access to clinical information, and logistical information such as aircraft access, weather and ICU bed availability. It also allows 24-hour communication access to a consultant in emergency medicine or intensive care with specialist aeromedical training.

Use of the app has led to improvements in decision making for the emergency teams, and has allowed faster and smoother movement of patients, and higher levels of quality of care. External evaluation of the EMRS has demonstrated that the app has saved an additional eight lives per 100 patients.

Paul Campbell, consultant in retrieval medicine with the EMRS, who was involved in the creating and developing the app, said: “Every second counts in emergency situations and the app helps me and the team at the EMRS quickly gather the information we need to help save lives.”

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