Live connection, Bluetooth scanning, customer service? No, not your latest smartphone call centre, but a new way to help patients manage serious conditions.
Surrey County Council has teamed up with local GPs to pioneer giving patients user-friendly electronic equipment to monitor their own long-term problems from home rather than visiting hospital as often.
The new programme, the largest of its kind in the country, so far involves more than 300 carefully-selected patients of GP surgeries across North West Surrey and Surrey Downs with long-term heart conditions and severe breathing problems like COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease).
The partnership is being widened to every GP commissioning group across Surrey by Christmas under a three-year county council contract worth up to £2.7 million, and could be extended to other serious conditions.
The money-saving process, known as telehealth, involves:
· GPs and community health workers identifying suitable patients with long–term, life-limiting conditions
· A tablet computer or smartphone allows access to easy-to-use technology with a passcode
· The equipment takes vital signs like blood oxygen levels and heart rate
· The patient answers extra questions to rate their recent health
· Nurses from contract provider Medvivo assess the results
· Any significant changes will automatically raise an alert
· The nurses arrange suitable follow-up care
Councillor Mel Few (pictured), Surrey County Council’s Cabinet Member for Adult Social Care, said:
“This innovative programme is a great way of helping people with serious conditions to monitor their health with expert support.
“Giving patients dedicated care that reduces their need to visit hospital spares both them and the public purse. We look forward to widening this programme across the county.”
Dr Andrew Sharpe, the project’s lead GP at Surrey Downs Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), said: “We are only just beginning our involvement, but early indications show participating patients from other areas feel more in control of their condition. This is important because, without the equipment, these patients might become anxious and worsen their condition if they cannot judge how serious it is.”
Dr Richard Barnett, a Sunbury GP and clinical lead for telehealth at North West Surrey CCG, said:
“Patients tell us that they want to have more control in order to manage their own conditions at home wherever possible. It has been shown that telehealth enables patients to take on more responsibility for the management of their illness by allowing closer engagement with their clinicians and empowering them to make decisions about the management of their illness with confidence.
“Telehealth involves family doctors and community nurses working collaboratively with hospital staff and Surrey County Council – a great example of joined-up working and more effective use of resources.”
Notes to Editors
Department of Health research estimates that using telehealth could result in a 20% reduction in emergency hospital admissions and a 15% reduction in A&E visits. An emergency hospital trip can cost the NHS more than £2,500.
Some 15 million people in England have at least one long-term incurable condition that can be managed through medication, while around 30 million people nationally own smartphones.
The programme, launched in July with North West Surrey Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) as the county took on responsibility for public health, will start in Surrey Downs CCG in the coming weeks, and Surrey’s other four CCGs are aiming to join by the end of the year.
Media organisations wanting more information should contact Surrey County Council senior media relations officer James Osborne on 0208 541 7259.