Weldmar Hospicecare in Dorset has launched an app for community nurses to monitor patients at home, the first app of its kind to be developed and launched in the UK.
Weldmar Connect has been developed by the hospice’s palliative care specialists, technology consultant Kate Taylor, and health technology provider Inhealthcare.
The app enables a patient to use their own smartphone, tablet, or computer to complete a short daily questionnaire about symptoms such as pain, nausea and anxiety, as well as information about their mobility and dependence on others. When symptoms are rated as severe, additional questions and guidance will appear. For any patient without internet access, the questionnaire can be completed via a daily automated phone call.
The app also includes useful information such as emergency contact numbers like the Weldmar 24 Hour Advice Line, and breathing exercises.
The Weldmar Community Nurse assigned to the patient will see the results of each daily questionnaire, and it will help them to prioritise their caseload based on the severity of symptoms being reported. The information also helps to identify trends in their condition.
Lucy Moxham and Emma Randall are nurses who have used Weldmar Connect with a number of patients during the trial period. Lucy says, “As a nurse, it has enabled me to monitor patient symptoms remotely and more regularly, and pick up on issues sooner than maybe I would normally. This has meant that I’ve been able to resolve/act on problems quicker. Weldmar Connect is super easy to use and takes less than five minutes for a patient to complete.”
Weldmar Community Nurse Emma Randall says it gives patients the chance to take some control. “It’s not about replacing phone calls or visits but is empowering for patients and allows them a platform to record their symptoms. Patients often have lots going on, and having to not recall their symptoms over a longer period of time means our time spent with them can be more effective, and can be focused on their needs and worries at that time.”
Emma also explains that although it’s in the early stages of use, Weldmar Connect has been incredibly useful during Covid-19. “It allows me to try and keep that rapport with patients, and helps them feel supported in these very difficult and challenging times. Visits have become less frequent and only happen when absolutely needed, so using the app helps them to feel like we are still very much a presence in their life, even if it is not in the physical sense.”
Elizabeth and Peter Routledge live in Thornford, Dorset, and have been using Weldmar Connect for the past week, recording Elizabeth’s symptoms for pancreatic cancer and lung metastases. “I’m not great when it comes to technology”, says Peter, “but actually I’ve found it very easy to use. It’s very easy to lose track of what’s happened the day before, so the idea of pinpointing symptoms and other factors every day is really useful.
“The information enables us to see what we need to concentrate on. There’s also the facility to add any other details not included in the questionnaire – I told Emma about a specific problem Elizabeth was having, and Emma was able to advise on it, so she knows exactly what I’m doing, and problems don’t exacerbate.”
The app has been introduced alongside other digital technologies. Nurses and patients have been meeting using Microsoft Teams video conferencing technology, which has enabled consultations during the Covid-19 lockdown. Longer term, the introduction of video meetings and use of the app will help significantly reduce travel time and costs for the nurses, which is important for Weldmar Hospicecare as a charity.
Bryn Sage is Chief Executive of Inhealthcare, a leading digital health technology provider based in Harrogate, who worked alongside Weldmar Hospicecare to develop Weldmar Connect. “The introduction of the Weldmar Connect service could be a game-changer for community nursing in the palliative care sector” he says. “Our technology allows nurses to remotely monitor patient wellbeing in the community, prioritise care for those who need it most and provide peace of mind and independence for others. During the threat of coronavirus, the service will minimise face-to-face contact to protect patients and nurses from unnecessary risks but maintain regular communications throughout.”
It’s also hoped that other hospices and palliative care providers across the UK will be able to adapt the app for their own patients.
Just over 80 per cent of all Weldmar’s end of life care is provided in patient’s own homes by teams of nurses based throughout Dorset. With the outbreak of Covid-19, Weldmar Connect will provide a vital link to patients at a time when non-essential travel and social distancing are so important. Nurses will continue to make patient visits when necessary, equipped with masks and other personal protective equipment.
For more information visit Weldmar Hospicecare