25% drop in emergency admissions from care homes thanks to app

Digital remote monitoring tech also results in 11% drop in attendance at Accident & Emergency, according to new study from Health Data Research UK (HDR UK) Better Care programme 

More than 400,000 people live in care homes in the UK. Many of these people have complex needs and are at greater risk of needing emergency healthcare, especially during the winter. This, of course, has an impact on local services and budgets. Yet a new study published in Age and Ageing, the official journal of the British Geriatrics Society, demonstrates the key role tech can play in tackling this challenge. 

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Photo by Ian Taylor

Researchers from the HDR UK Better Care programme – a collaboration between the universities of Durham, Lancaster, Newcastle and Sheffield – set out to investigate the benefits of digital tech used for remote health monitoring in care homes. In this particular study, they looked at the impact of using the Health Call app for 8,702 residents in 118 care homes in the north-east of England between 2018 and 2021. 

Health Call is an NHS-owned digital company which developed a smartphone app that care home staff can use to monitor and manage the long-term health of residents. They simply record daily observations, which is then held securely in the app. Medical staff can then review the information remotely and offer guidance – all while the resident remains in the care home. 

Staff are trained to use the app to record vital signs that enable the calculation of a National Early Warning Score 2 (NEWS2), the standard used across the NHS to identify patients who may be at risk of deterioration. Carers can also enter text describing a resident’s condition; this uses a structured approach based on situation, background, assessment and recommendation (SBAR). 

Where a resident becomes unwell, the app provides care home management with a structure for seeking clinical advice. 

By linking data gathered within these care homes to the routinely collected secondary NHS care data from County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, the researchers have been able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the Health Call app. They found it reduced the number of attendances to A&E by 11% and unplanned emergency admissions by 25%. 

What’s more, a cost analysis conducted by the researchers found that use of Health Call within care homes saved the NHS £57 per resident in 2018 and £113 per resident in 2021. 

Alex Garner, a PhD student at the Centre for Health Informatics, Computing and Statistics at Lancaster University and first author on the study, says: ‘As the age of the UK population increases, finding solutions that improve care and quality of life for older people has become increasingly important. 

‘The findings of our study highlight the potential of data-driven solutions such as remote monitoring technology to improve care through reducing emergency attendances and admissions to hospital. Care home staff also reported that using the app boosted their confidence in being able to identify possible deterioration earlier and support better management of illnesses before hospitalisation is needed. 

‘Our hope is that these types of digital technology will play a vital role in improving communication between health service providers in the future, benefiting both patients and the NHS.’  

Suzanne Mason, Professor of Emergency Medicine at the University of Sheffield and senior author on the study, adds: ‘By having the capability to link data recorded by care home staff to data from NHS services, we were able to evaluate the impact of using a novel digital monitoring technology such as the Health Call app. This study highlights the added value in capturing routine health data for research above and beyond that already being collected for the delivery of patient care.’ 

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Apps really work on anxiety and depression, new analysis shows 

New data on London properties at risk from heat 

Plasmonic filter to battle hospital infections 


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