Care homes in Sheffield are piloting an ‘early warning system’ for residents to preemptively catch health problems and reduce hospital admissions.

Staff at seven care homes in the city have been using the Inhealthcare Professional app to digitally record residents’ vital signs and share them with healthcare teams at Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

The app allows care teams to monitor the health of residents and identify when an individual shows signs of becoming unwell.

In doing so, nurses can intervene at an earlier stage and lower the risk of a resident becoming so ill that they need hospital treatment.

The project, called Digital Care Home, is being trialled with 70 residents at Balmoral, Moorend Place, Chapel Lodge, Haythorne Place, Chatsworth Grange, Alexander Court and Loxley Court care homes in Sheffield.

Philippa Hedley-Takhar, programme manager for the Digital Care Home said the work between the care home community and local NHS services in Sheffield had been “well received by those involved.”

She added: “[This] represents a closer way of working between health and care services enabling important information about residents to be shared in order to tailor care to a resident’s specific needs.

“As a result of the programme, we are building strong new partnerships between care homes and healthcare professionals for the benefit of residents, their families and the wider health and social care system.”

More than 35 care home workers have been trained to use the app, which allows nurses to record residents’ respiration rate, oxygen saturation, temperature, blood pressure, heart rate and level of consciousness through monitoring equipment.

If a deterioration in health is detected, nurses can prioritise GP visits, increase resident monitoring or review the medication of patients accordingly.

Amanda Fields, manager at Alexander Court, said: “If we are identifying people earlier and can see their stats are out of range, it gives us time to speak to their GP who can start treatment for them. That’s welcome for the patient and the local health budget.”

The future of care homes?

A six-year project run by NHS Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group suggested that care homes that incorporated digital technology to support residents could save the NHS £1bn a year.

Bryn Sage, CEO of Yorkshire-based Inhealthcare, said the digital care home model could be scaled out rapidly across the country.

Sage added:

“This project is at the forefront of problem-solving innovation in the NHS and demonstrates the benefits of closer partnership working and collaboration between innovators, care homes and the NHS, and how health and care systems can make the best use of new technology.”