Recently released guidance has called for the scaling up of COVID Virtual Wards (CVWs) across the UK to relieve the pressure on hospital beds. HT World spoke to the founder of Luscii, a Dutch-developed home healthcare monitoring app, about the benefits and future of virtual wards.
The NHS has recommended that all integrated care systems (ICSs) immediately establish CVWs to support the earlier and safe discharge of COVID-19 inpatients.
CVWs work by allowing patients to be monitored at home though the use of a loaned oxygen monitoring device (oximeter). Patients take daily readings using the oximeter and enter those readings into the Luscii app.
A proprietary AI analyses the readings, monitoring for any sign of measurement abnormalities which could mean medical attention is required. If a patient begins to deteriorate – even with no outward signs of distress – this is quickly identified, and trained hospital staff are alerted, enabling effective and rapid intervention.
Founder of Luscii Daan Dohmen discussed the benefits of using virtual wards.
“When patients have been hospitalised with COVID-19, you are able to send them home earlier. From our previous work and research that we have already done in the Netherlands, we see that it is possible to discharge patients to the home almost one week earlier, and then guide them using the Luscii app and the virtual ward.
“You can also use the COVID Virtual Wards to keep regular care for patients with COPD, asthma, cardiovascular diseases, which are at risk of COVID and are not able to go to the hospital due to capacity reasons.
“Earlier discharge can free up ICU capacity or beds since the flow in the hospital will improve, and on the other side with the Oximetry@home, you can make sure that only the right patients come to your emergency unit. That means that you can also reduce the influx of patients.
He added: “The NHS saying that this is an opportunity to relieve the pressure, we are making resources free and we have a framework with suppliers that can help you, is a very important step.”
Dohmen also spoke about the potential use of virtual ward technology beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
“What we see in all of the regions where we operate, whether it’s Ireland, the Netherlands, Africa, or the UK, is that once you have the virtual ward in place, then it is very easy to scale it up to other disease types, including diabetes, COPD, or hypertension.
“The hardest part is not the technology; the hardest part is to have it in place and have nurses trained, as well as having a process of how to deal with all the data coming in and the alerts from our artificial intelligence. So, once you have that, you can easily expand it.
“It is not only about the dynamics in viruses but also about the ageing society we live in. In 10 years, there will be a huge number of elderly people with a huge number of questions.
“Having these virtual wards is not only good to prevent and protect ourselves from viruses, but also for the other challenges that we have.”