Residents at a Shrewsbury care home have become some of the first in Shropshire to benefit from the use of cutting-edge digital healthcare technologies as part of a major new project being rolled out by the NHS.

Rhea Paller with Montgomery House resident June Croft

Montgomery House in Sundorne has been working in partnership with neighbouring GP surgery Severn Fields Medical Practice since January to trial an advanced digital remote patient-monitoring system called DOC@HOME® and already care home managers and doctors say they are seeing hugely positive results.

It works in such a way that care staff monitoring the ongoing health of residents can log their observations electronically through the system and the data is shared directly in real-time with clinicians at Severn Fields.

Rhea Paller, manager of Mongomery House, which is operated by not-for-profit care provider, Coverage Care Services, said: “The digital system which we are piloting is fantastic and is certainly enabling us to deliver better care to our residents.

“Its cutting-edge capabilities allow for more speedy medical intervention as soon as it’s required, whether that be reviewed by the clinician remotely and advice given for the residents based on the data received or determining whether it might be necessary for a GP to visit the home to make a more in depth, in person assessment.

“The benefits of being able to enter clinical information not only for immediate requests, but also as part of weekly GP rounds, and monthly clinical observations are proving to be effective to all parties.

“The system helps us track the general health of all our residents much more closely and accurately enabling GPs to make more informed and proactive decisions about the health of those we look after.

“For our staff, the technology is saving them time and means they don’t have to spend long periods waiting to speak to a GP and can use their time more effectively and efficiently caring for residents.”

Elaine Barnett, operations manager for Severn Fields, added that the DOC@HOME system had the capabilities to transform the delivery of care within care homes and so far the trial was proving very successful.

“Care home staff can share their observations speedily with the practice which means that if a carer notices that a resident is unwell, we can intervene almost immediately and determine the best course of action.

“It’s already helping to improve the communication between our practice and the care home, is saving our GPs time and is building on the already fantastic partnership we have with staff at Montogomery House.”

The pilot project is set to run throughout 2022 and into 2023 with the possibility of the technology being extended for use across more homes in the county including several operated by Coverage Care Services.

The project is being funded by NHS Digital as it looks to improve and optimise its responsiveness to the level of care provided within care home settings.

Dr Stephen James, chief clinical information officer for Shropshire, Telford and Wrekin Clinical Commissioning Group said: “This is a good example of where technology can enable new ways of working. It allows the collection and sharing of information which enhances the decision-making process in a very positive way.

“Those directly involved have already seen benefits in terms of both communication and time management. As this way of working becomes more widely used across our local health and care system there will be significant improvements in quality and outcomes for care home residents, which will impact the individuals, their families and the wider population.”

Rebecca Gallimore, director of digital transformation for Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust and digital lead for the Shropshire Telford and Wrekin ICS, said: “This nationally funded project is a key part of both the NHS digital road map and of Shropshire Telford and Wrekin’s digital health and care strategy.

“Such approaches can support services to adapt, change and thrive in a digital world, bringing the lessons learned from the pandemic into mainstream use. They will be central to how we rebuild and remobilise the health and social care system after the effects of the COVID pandemic.

“The project can support delivering care to patients within the comfort and safety of their own homes, including care homes. This will use the right remote monitoring approach, which takes into consideration the preferences and capabilities of residents and patients to manage their digitally enabled care in the home.

“Studies to date have shown how this can contribute to increased self-management, improved resource efficiency and reduced health inequalities and patients report feeling supported and reassured by the services using these methods.”

Karen Middlemas from NHS Midlands and Lancashire Commissioning Support Unit said a similar pilot scheme was underway in the Telford & Wrekin local authority area and that discussions were ongoing with a number of other care providers and GP practices about extending use of the technology more widely across the Shropshire area.

The DOC@HOME technology being used at Montogomery House is being provided in partnership with Docobo – a UK leader in the field of digital health and data management systems.

Adrian Flowerday, the managing director of Docobo said: “We have really enjoyed working on this project – the team worked really hard, and the results and benefits speak for themselves: saving time for both care home staff and GPs. We look forward to working with the team in the future.”

Coverage Care Services is Shropshire’s largest independent, not-for-profit care provider and has homes located in Shrewsbury, Oswestry, Whitchurch, Bridgnorth, Telford, Newport, Market Drayton and Bishops Castle.