Helen Rollings, Telehealthcare Consultant tells us how using telehealth as a Community Matron led to her working for Tunstall to help others do the same.
As a registered nurse I have worked in many and various roles within the NHS. I have always enjoyed working with patients and my colleagues delivering the best care and service.
In 2006/7 I was working as a Community Matron in Swindon supporting patients with long term conditions. It was becoming clear that our support was generally reactive rather than proactive. Although as prescribers we could deal quickly with exacerbations and manage the patient in their own home, we did not feel we were not promoting independence and improving quality of life.
Getting proactive with telehealth
To try to remedy this, as a team we were given the opportunity to consider telehealth, and started working with Tunstall. In the beginning our team did everything, from installation to triage. We were lucky to have an occupational therapist in the team who visited every patient pre-telehealth and post-telehealth to establish if quality of life improved using a recognised tool. It soon became clear that it had, and unplanned hospital admissions had reduced over a six month period too. Gradually the service grew, and is still working well today, although now there is an installation team (Council) and a nurse hub at the hospital, triaging and sending the most appropriate practitioner to work with the patient.
When I first began working with telehealth I will admit to feeling slightly sceptical. However, I was open to a challenge, and what changed my point of view to that of strong advocate was seeing the impact that using the technology has on the patient. On many occasions my patients would tell me about new confidence – feeling able to go on holiday for the first time in years or down to the pub. For carers, too, independence arising from increased knowledge about their loved one’s condition, the reduction in anxiety and who to speak to if they’re concerned, gives a degree of freedom and time to care for themselves. From the point of view of clinical staff with ever increasing caseloads, we could manage a good proportion using telehealth. This released time to care for very complex cases, where we needed to liaise with many different services from housing to mental health to ensure the people we cared for were well supported.
As lead nurse and a customer of Tunstall I was surprised to be asked to apply for a post at Tunstall. After a good deal of thought I joined Tunstall in December 2011 and have been on a steep learning curve ever since! Working on the ground with clinical staff all over the South is a privilege and an eye opener. There are many different models of care, and very hardworking nurses and doctors out there who are maintaining high standards of care in some very challenging circumstances. To be able to support them is fantastic!
The next challenge from my point of view is to help support the integration of health and social care. Patients on telehealth generally will also require telecare or other equipment. Building services and solutions around the patient makes sense, enabling people to stay in their home whenever possible safely and securely and reducing the pressure on healthcare. I’m looking forward to playing my part in helping drive the change, and seeing services improve even more using technology and creative, proactive thinking.
“Success is simple. Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.”