'Cancer treatment doesn’t suddenly stop'

While the focus has been on managing patients with COVID-19, patients with non-communicable diseases, have been somewhat overlooked as routine follow-ups and chronic care pathways have been put on hold.  This situation has been aggravated by lockdown and the fear that hospitals might be hotspots for infection. As a result, healthcare leaders and clinicians have had to deploy new technology to support patients with chronic conditions

HIMSS chief clinical officer Dr Charles Alessi, who chaired the event, ‘Supporting the Front Line: Leveraging Digital to Maintain Continuity of Care for Patients with Chronic Conditions in Times of Health Crises,’ started the proceedings by asking how healthcare professionals were assessing backlogs and organising catch ups.

Dr Alessi was joined by Jeroen Tas, Philips chief innovation & strategy officer, Henning Schneider, chief information officer at Asklepios Kliniken Gmbh & Co and Rachel Binks, nurse consultant, clinical lead for digital and acute care at Airedale NHS Foundation Trust.

WHY IT MATTERS

Jeroen Tas said patients with chronic conditions still need clinical care: “Helping people to get care outside the hospital and still get care at home is important because chronic disease doesn’t go away. Cancer treatment doesn’t suddenly stop, so we’ve been working with people around the globe to structurally deal with the fact that acute care is now reserved for COVID-19 patients. How can we continue to provide care for other patients? How can we turn quick solutions intro structural solutions?”

He observed that the biggest complications were with people who already had chronic diseases, heart failure, diabetes and pulmonary disease, so he knew that they had to get “deeper insight” into COVID-19 and its complications. He realised they couldn’t glean that insight from a single ICU so they had to create capacity for monitoring the ventilation that was required in hot zones.  

He recognised they need to assess the risks and states of the patient and become predictive about it, by combining medical history and analytics, and by, “optimising patient flow and deciding which patients can be helped in the community, which should go to a clinic or an acute care setting.” 

ON THE RECORD

Henning Schneider said they changed their communication with patients because of COVID-19: “We already did video-consultancy before COVID but we had to build 200 additional video-consultancy connections in our hospital. We offered doctors the ability to work at home and to get in touch virtually with their patients. We installed 1,600 workplaces so doctors could work from home and do video-consultancy. 

We had a huge business data warehouse where we started collecting data and suddenly in just three weeks we could build a huge dashboard where we could see all the COVID patients and all the intensive care wards, beds, and occupation rates in over 80 different hospitals.”

Rachel Binks was concerned about people in care homes: “The worry for us was in the care home population.  That was where there was a huge amount of patients who were struggling, and staff who were struggling, with residents who had COVID. In our hospital, we had already started doing pre-op video-consultations for outpatients and on our website for the hospital we have a link where people can literally go onto the website and click into an outpatients department virtually from their own devices.

“We also have a telemedicine club, so our telemedicine service was in about 500 care homes across the country, now it is in over 800 care homes. I really hope we manage to help those care homes to support residents without having to bring them out of their care home.

“Things like virtual verification of expected death stopped unnecessary visits into care home and trips to hospitals. Staff in care homes didn’t want the people they were caring for to go into hospitals because of the danger of infection.”

This webinar is part of a Digital Dialogue series on the topic of ‘Supporting the Frontline’.

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