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Technology can help avoid uncoordinated care by ensuring that health and care staff have appropriate access to all of the information they need. Sensors, apps and assistive technology can all help to support independence by identifying problems early. In Newcastle Gateshead introduced and evaluated the use of hand held technology and apps into care homes. The main areas of focus were the National Early Warning Score (NEWS), Nutrition and Hydration and falls prevention. Care staff had access to portable devices with specific apps that were tailored to the care of their residents that will provide meaningful advice to enhance care provision.

Additionally, telemedicine has the potential to improve the quality and efficiency of care delivered by care homes, community health services, specialist services and local government partners. It can be used to support virtual ward models of care and for triage, assessment, and even direct supervision of treatment. Secure video links can be particularly useful in care homes where a high proportion of the staff are not medically trained. Such systems offer the potential to enhance the quality of care, and to reduce inappropriate GP call outs, ambulance calls and admissions from care homes to hospital.

To fully realise the Enhanced Health in Care Homes model, a digital infrastructure is required for staff and commissioners that is fit-for-purpose. It must permit appropriate access to care records, allow data-sharing for planning of provision, and support the use of assistive technology and telemedicine in care homes. The components necessary for such a system are linked health and social care data sets, access to the care record and secure email, and better use of technology in care homes.

This includes:

Telecare is technology that is used to support independent living (e.g. falls monitoring);

Telehealth is technology that is used to exchange information about health and wellbeing between residents and professionals (e.g. notification of changes to observations such as heart rate or weight); and

Telemedicine is technology that is used to exchange decision-making information between professionals and residents (e.g. video links between homes and clinical hubs).

Gateshead Virtual Ward Report

This report presents the findings of an independent review of Gateshead Virtual Ward. The review was commissioned by Newcastle Gateshead Clinical Commissioning Group to support the further development of care for those with the most complex of needs across both Newcastle and Gateshead. It was conducted by Cordis Bright, PPL and Cobic, a team of three independent research and consultancy organisations specialising in health and social care.

Overall, it appears that the Gateshead Virtual Ward is an effective mechanism to support the delivery of high-quality health and care support to people living in care homes. Nevertheless, the review has identified a number of recommendations for the future development of the Ward, these include a description of the recommendation and lists the report section(s) from which it emerges. Evidence for the recommendation is presented in the relevant section.