“A new technology… allowing doctors and nurses working under great pressure to deliver the best possible care, to focus on the patients who are unwell”
Last week, Henry Bodkin wrote a closely researched and thought-provoking piece for The Sunday Telegraph, following Oxehealth’s recently announced European medical device certification. It was particularly good to see him recognise that our technology will not replace staff or their skills, but instead support them to deliver the personalised care they judge each patient needs.
Oxehealth’s Digital Care Assistant (DCA) pays attention to every patient room when staff cannot be there. It alerts staff to risks to the patient (for example, of falling) between their routine checks. It also allows them to take pulse rate and breathing rate measurements totally contact-free, without entering the room. You can read more about the DCA here.
Henry focused on one significant benefit of the DCA: improved sleep. By using the DCA, staff will often not need to wake patients so frequently to obtain basic health monitoring data, enabling them to rest undisturbed.
But Professor Andrew Goddard, President of the Royal College of Physicians, went to the heart of the matter, telling Henry, “using new technology in this way, to monitor patients at a distance, is a good idea, allowing doctors and nurses working under great pressure to deliver the best possible care, to focus on the patients who are unwell.” This is exactly Oxehealth’s mission.
There is growing acknowledgement of the shortage of clinical staff in mental health, our primary market. In a recent written answer in the House of Commons, Jackie Doyle-Price, Parliamentary Under-Secretary in the Department of Health and Social Care, noted that 1 in 10 roles were vacant in NHS Mental Health Trusts.
Similar challenges can be found in general hospitals and care homes, where we also operate. Only today Chris Hopson, CEO of NHS Providers, noted that NHS vacancies grew 9% this quarter, according to NHS Improvement statistics. It is therefore clear that nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors caring for our vulnerable and elderly are hard-pressed and need support.
These clinicians face the Corridor Problem: they check people frequently but how can they know whether their patient is safe and recovering between their checks? (More on the Corridor Problem in a future blog). And how can they get more frequent pulse rate and breathing rate data to help them to work out who needs their care the most?
Commentators sometimes think we intend to replace nurses, healthcare care assistants or doctors with technology. That’s a mistake; it is absolutely not what we are about.
No machine can replace a clinician\'s judgment. Full nursing assessments require sophisticated clinical understanding. Many essential assessments (whether scheduled or carried out on a clinical instinct) will always require attending on the patient in person.
But we believe clinicians deserve the additional peace of mind provided by the DCA alerting them to risky activity between their in-person checks (reducing the Corridor Problem). And we believe clinicians should be given the opportunity to save time by using the DCA to collect observations when, in their judgment, a pulse rate or breathing rate is what they need.
That applies particularly in situations in which they do not wish to enter the patient’s room. But any use of the DCA should reduce the amount of time clinicians have to spend on routine work, leaving them with more time to attend to patients who really need their skills.
We are delighted that, today, more than 15% of England\'s Mental Health Trusts, not to mention three care home chains, two police forces and the Ministry of Justice, have contracted to use our DCA. We have found that nurses, healthcare assistants and doctors love using our system for the benefit of their patients.
In a recent case study, Tracy Beechey, a deputy ward manager at Coventry and Warwickshire Partnership NHS Trust (CWPT) says, “I am sure many of the other team [members] couldn’t imagine not having the system now in place. It is something that makes us feel more secure and we feel it just sets up the safety for the patients.” The team at CWPT put the following video together to share how they are benefiting from the Oxehealth system:
Our customers decide how often to check their patients in person, using long-established protocols. No change in today’s protocols is required in order to deploy any version of the DCA. Rather, with clinicians working under “great pressure”, Oxehealth’s aim is to give staff more time to care where and when, in their judgment, they are needed most.
If you’d like to explore using the DCA to support your work, or have ideas on how it might be improved, please do get in touch.