My extended role
My consultant role was extended to clinical director for digital care and telemedicine earlier this year. This has been a fascinating journey for me. I have spent a lot of time working with our technical partners TPP and their integrated electronic health record, SystmOne as we plan to use it as a core clinical system within Airedale Hospital. As a district general hospital, most of our routine clinical work is within the community. The use of an integrated digital record, with access to primary care information, brings clinical and resource benefits to everyone.
Whilst a lot of focus internally has been on our integrated health record, there has been almost overwhelming external interest in the use of telemedicine. As a clinician, and a former carer, I can see the immediate benefits to patients, care and clinical staff with the use of telemedicine. The positive experience of the patient at the end of the video link is often reflected in the smile of the nurse who is delivering care and advice from our telemedicine hub.
Whilst the technology is not new, its application on any significant scale within the NHS has been slow in coming. We are now at that stage, and the data that we have for more than 5000 residents in nursing and care homes is impressive. There have been significant reductions in admissions and emergency department attendances with substantial financial savings for the health economy, not to mention better experiences for patients and staff. The Gold Line, which provides patients in the last year of their life with 24/7 access to an experienced nurse within Airedale Hospital’s telemedicine hub, with its directory of local services, has provided us with wonderful anecdotal stories about how they have benefited. A formal appraisal of this service is due next year.
Despite the significant benefits that we are already realising using telemedicine in the prison sector, alongside the care homes, there continue to be barriers. These are the financial setup of the NHS, which continues to work as a number of silos, and the often repeated phrase ‘but what’s in it for….?’.
We have had some prestigious visitors again in the last month, including Lord Willis (leading the ‘Shape of Caring Review’) and Lord Rose (advising on NHS leadership), who immediately recognised the long established, sometimes protective silos that exist that are at times holding Trust’s such as Airedale NHS Foundation Trust back as we strive to deliver true integrated care for patients at the right place and at the right time, irrespective of care boundaries.
These are exciting times, but we need to increase our momentum and recognise that the patient is and should always remain, at the centre of what we aim to do.
Justin Tuggey is a consultant in respiratory & general medicine and clinical director for digital care and telemedicine at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust