Technology is now playing an ever-increasing role in people’s every day health and wellbeing with more and more of us using health apps on our smartphones or wearing bands on our wrists to help keep track of how well we are performing.
In the NHS itself, there have also been technological developments, advanced treatment techniques to help transform services and new systems put in place help to get hospitals, GPs and social care organisations across the system to talk to each other and exchange information more effectively, with the ultimate goal of increasing the patient’s experience.
Virgin Care has been providing NHS services for more than a decade now, and since then pressures on providers to improve services has been high. Every year we invest in new technology to free up clinicians’ time so they can spend less time behind the computer and more time working with patients, co-design new ways of working with our teams to deliver better care for our patients and make the best use of the technology we have.
In Lyme Regis, where we run a medical centre on behalf of the local NHS, a team of our skilled nurses are utilising technology to help save people’s lives, with a new portable monitor – previously only available in hospital – funded through Virgin Care’s Feel the Difference Fund.
The Mindray Patient Monitor measures vital signs recording the measurements of heart rhythm, heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation, respiratory rate and temperature and providing continuous monitoring of these measurements, with alarm if the patient condition deteriorates.
The new tech was vital in the team’s effort to save the life of a patient taken seriously ill in the waiting area, keeping a continuous eye on them while clinicians cared for her and waited for an ambulance to arrive. This is why technology is essential to making a difference and to help innovative services which help the community stay well and intervene early when people are vulnerable and that means empowering them with information and access to services.
Elsewhere, in our community hospitals an SEM scanner and its technology – which can spot pressure ulcers developing before they’re visible – was part of a new matrix of checks introduced to help reduce the number of new pressure ulcers in our hospitals.
Using tiny electric pulses, the scanner is able to detect where skin is already damaged before this damage becomes visible as a pressure ulcer, giving nurses extra information on which patients are most at risk and giving them extra time to deliver targeted care which can reverse the damage and prevent ulceration.
Pressure ulcers, although often avoidable, are a major issue across the NHS, costing more than £2bn a year nationally through specialist equipment and by increasing the length of patients’ stays in hospital by around five times.
But by using the scanner alongside a new toolkit, which includes traditional scoring, it has helped to reach a zero tolerance focus on pressure ulcer damage across the wards we run. It was so successful during its pilot stage – we saw a 95 per cent reduction in the number of pressure ulcers compared to the same period the previous year – that we rolled the technology out further and introduced the scanner across the country. We were also lucky enough to run away winners of a Kent Surrey Sussex Leadership and Innovation Award for the work we achieved.
Our nurses too have overwhelmingly been positive about the increase in technology in their day-to-day life and say it has given them useful information and helped support their decision making for patients.
At Virgin Care, we are always looking for new ways to develop the way our nurses work by introducing new technology to help us further improve care for patients and provide the best working environment for our colleagues. From replacing outdated mobile phones, tablets and laptops for better mobile working, to introducing brand new technology to directly improve patient care – this different approach and promise to provide care good enough for our families is about making sure that everybody using our services feels the Virgin Care difference.
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