Ellen gives telehealth the thumbs up

Ellen Lawson takes her blood pressure
Ellen Lawson takes her blood pressure

Ellen Lawson admitted she felt a bit nervous at the prospect of taking part in a short film. However, so strongly did she feel about the subject of the film – the trust’s new telehealth service operated by Bexley Community Health Services – that she went ahead anyway.

In the event she needn’t have worried as the film crew all agreed she was a ‘natural’.

Oxleas telehealth service was set up last year at the Erith Health Centre. It allows the nursing staff to monitor patients’ vital signs, health and wellbeing in their own homes without them having to go to hospital. The patients are able to manage long term conditions - such as heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – effectively at home. This empowers them to understand their illness and take a more active role in their own care.

Regular monitoring also reduces GP visits and unplanned hospital admissions and allows nursing staff to see more patients.

If it is decided that it is safe to monitor patients at home, telehealth equipment is installed in their home. At a time agreed by both the patient and nursing staff, the monitor will signal that it is time for the patient to take their vital signs and answer questions about their symptoms. The monitor then guides the patient, using text display and audio announcements through a series of measurements and health related questions.

Ellen, who suffers from COPD, says having the equipment at home is great for someone with limited mobility: “I’d love to be able to walk to the bus stop, but I get out of breath just answering the door. This gives me complete peace of mind. I don’t have to worry about bothering my GP as staff monitor my readings every day and will phone me and visit when needed.”

The equipment monitors vital signs such as blood pressure; temperature, weight; blood glucose and oxygen intake. This information is then sent via the patient’s telephone line to a computer in the health centre. Ellen usually does her readings at around 9.30am and says the equipment is easy to use: “If I can use it anyone can. If I forget to do my readings on time it even gently reminds me. That’s very reassuring and a wonderful safety net.”

High quality care tailored to individual patients and delivered in their own homes is more comfortable for them and also saves on expensive hospital admissions. Ellen is in no doubt of the benefits: “I haven’t had a trip to hospital for a long while. I feel completely and utterly cared for by a very supportive and special group of people.”

Filming took place in Ellen’s home in Welling and at the Erith Health Centre this week and an excerpt featuring Ellen will be shown at the trust’s Nursing Conference  on 17 June. The complete telehealth film will appear on the trust’s website www.oxleas.nhs.uk later this month.

Greenwich Community Health Services will also start providing a telehealth service later this summer.  

Published on 15th June 2011