An NHS trust is leading the way in using video technology to improve people’s lives.

Annette Ferrier is Digital Care Hub team leader with Airedale NHS Trust, which provides secure 24/7 video link-up technology to care homes throughout the UK.

“Skilled paramedics and therapists are able to have discussions with carers who are sometimes unqualified while working in residential homes and just need that reassurance on how to manage somebody,” she explained. 

“What we’re doing is trying to give clinical management plans so people don’t panic, and don’t call 999 straight away. 

“Often, once that call’s gone through and the ambulance is in attendance, they will come through to a hospital, and that is not always the best place for an elderly frail person at 4am on a Friday morning.”

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During a small pilot scheme covering 30 care homes with the digital support, and 30 without, hospital admissions were reduced by five per cent, and direct admission to medical assessment units by 14 per cent.

According to Ferrier, the older generation are sometimes more willing to embrace the future of healthcare than the professionals around them.

“[We’re sometimes told by care homes] that residents don’t like it, but we showed them how it worked, dialled through to speak to the nursing staff, and it was great.

“These people were frail, elderly, in their 80s and 90s, some of them bordering on 100, and they’ll say: ‘That’s great, can I speak to that nurse in the box again? That’s brilliant’.

“We found staff were a bit scared about it, but I think we make assumptions about elderly people.

“We did a pilot using iPads in peoples’ own homes for another service. People really engaged with it, and probably the eldest in that pilot were the highest users. They absolutely loved it.”

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The Digital Hub at Airedale Hospital has been praised by Steve Tope, who, following a career with Telefonica and O2, is regional now account director with Tunstall Healthcare.

Steve Tope

For nearly 60 years, the organisation has offered products that, in simple terms, allow just short of five million people to live at home for longer.

Vibby, for example, is worn on the wrist and will automatically raise an alert if it senses the user has fallen. CareClip ensures the user can access help away from home, and Mymedic II allows patients to take vital signs picked by their doctor.

Tope believes the health sector has some way to go to fully integrate technology into improving the lives of its users.

The Digital Care Hub, for example is in use at just 400 care homes throughout the UK – out of a total of approximately 20,000.

“We know that society faces huge challenges, not just an aging population – but reduced funding. Cost of care inside a home is astronomical and keeping people in their homes for as long as possible is the cheapest way forward,” said Tope.

“Consumerisation of technology is driving everything. Things that people are very comfortable using in their daily lives, they expect to see in the workplace.

“Healthcare is the one market where everybody wants it, but it’s struggling to become the adopted norm. The big question for health is how we adopt that so it has a significant impact.

“Social care and housing have been appointing technology for decades. They use it to support individuals on a daily basis and are really driven on a whole preventative agenda.”

He added: “Health seems to have a different view, to wait and then treat, which is more expensive than doing something in advance.

“The problem is how you qualify, or prove value in something that may or may not happen, that’s one of the issues we see in health. They want technology; the problem is bringing it inside their organisation.”

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