Telemedicine

System helps lung patients stay out of hospital

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PATIENTS in Sheffield with serious lung conditions are spending less time in hospital and more time at home thanks to the use of a new monitoring system. People with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease, which covers lung conditions including emphysema and bronchitis, have been issued with ‘Telehealth’ equipment which enables medics to closely monitor their health and flag up any problems at an early stage. And by ensuring difficulties are picked up quickly the approach has halved readmission rates to hospital for COPD patients, freeing up expensive beds. Patients involved with the Telehealth project are issued with equipment to use at home which assesses their blood pressure, pulse rate, oxygen saturation levels and body temperature. Readings are sent by computer to a centre where they are studied and clinicians will then alert doctors and nurses if there are any abnormal signs. Support can then be given to prevent the patient getting worse and needing hospital treatment. Sue Thackray, deputy head of development nursing for Sheffield Primary Care Trust, said: “The way we use the Telehealth in Sheffield helps patients have the choice about how they are cared for and helps them to self-care.” COPD is more common in South Yorkshire because the condition affects people who worked in heavy industry and smokers – as the region has a high rate. The early stage of the disease may go undetected but early medical health can make a big difference to prevent further deterioration in the lungs. The aim of Telehealth is to encourage an improved quality of life for patients as well as reducing the need for them to be admitted to hospital. Sheffield PCT chief executive Jan Sobieraj said: “Effectively using developing technology is very important in the work of PCT staff to help patients self care, prevent hospital admissions and support teams like the Community Respiratory Nursing Team to care for patients.”

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