Trailblazing healthtech: virtual wards

At a recent Trailblazing Tech event hosted with pro-manchester, as chair of pro-manchester’s healthcare committee I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr Saif Ahmed, digital clinical information lead at Health Innovation Manchester on the progress and future plans for virtual wards in Greater Manchester.

A relatively new concept in healthcare, virtual wards are considered to be a safe and efficient alternative to NHS bedded care that is enabled by technology. Virtual wards support patients who would otherwise be in hospital to receive the acute care, monitoring and treatment they need in their own home. This includes either preventing avoidable admissions into hospital or supporting early discharge out of hospital. Essentially, a virtual ward is a system that allows healthcare providers to monitor and care for patients remotely, using tools such as video conferencing, wearable devices, and patient portals.

It is hoped that virtual wards will go some way to tackle the NHS workforce crisis, as highlighted in the NHS Long Term Workforce Plan. But virtual wards are not just about efficiencies, Dr Ahmed revealed the debilitating effect on patients of being sedentary in a hospital bed rather than more mobile in their own homes.

As of March 2023, Greater Manchester providers reported delivery of 467 virtual ward beds, supporting around 400 patients each week. The aim is to deliver approximately 1,095 beds by March 2024.

Virtual wards are not without their challenges and some of these challenges lie within the technology itself, such as issues with different kit functions, skin tone impacting on reading accuracy and the risk of user error if readings are input manually. Dr Ahmed called out to the innovators in the room to help to resolve some of these challenges.

If you’d like to know more about virtual wards please do get in touch.

This blog first appeared on pro-manchester's web page, Mills & Reeve Trailblazing Tech – What We Learnt

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