NHS 75: The app helping Sunderland patients to stay out of hospital

David Lowe says the system has given him the confidence to manage his lung condition. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

To mark the 75th anniversary of the NHS, we take an in-depth look at the impact of health services in the North East. Here, we examine how digital technology is helping patients to manage their conditions and avoid hospital stays.

For David Lowe, discovering he had the lung condition COPD came as a shock.

After a lifetime of good health, Mr Lowe and his wife Diane were suddenly forced to confront a disease they had previously known little about.

Then, three and a half years ago, Mr Lowe became one of the first patients in Sunderland to trial a digital monitoring programme for people with respiratory conditions.

It allowed him to have daily contact with a nursing team, but instead of meeting face-to-face, the conversations took place via his tablet.

Mr Lowe said it provided much-needed reassurance at a difficult time.

David Lowe said the app had provided much-needed reassurance. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

"One of the troubles with this disease is, if you allow it to, it can panic you," he said. "So it's nice to know that there's somebody there all the time that can help and that's the most important thing."

The system being trialled by South Tyneside and Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust is known as Luscii.

The makers describe it as a remote monitoring app.

How does Sunderland's remote monitoring programme work?

  • Patients record regular readings on the Luscii app, including blood pressure, oxygen levels, heart rate and temperature.

  • Unusual results in those routine checks trigger an alert to a nursing team which follows up with the patient.

  • Monitoring of patients' readings is coupled with regular video calls with the option of a face-to-face visit if needed.

  • Watch Helen Ford's report

Mrs Lowe said the programme has helped the couple to gain confidence in managing her husband's condition and spot any warning signs.

She added: "As his carer, really all of the decision making was mine."

"Clouding everything was the fact that I didn't really know what I was doing and that was difficult because you always like to feel like you are in control, so it was very, very reassuring."

The ability to see patients, albeit via a smartphone or tablet, is invaluable to the medical team involved, according to Sunderland nurse practitioner Lauren Olivier.

She said: "We can then see them, how they look and how they're presenting."

"Are they looking flushed, do they look particularly pale?"

"We can check their respiratory rate and things over the video call which you just couldn't do over a telephone call."

There are several aims of digital monitoring programmes.

For some patients, it avoids a hospital stay altogether.

Others, who have spent time on a ward, are able to be discharged more quickly, knowing a medical team is still keeping track of their condition.

All this frees up hospital beds for others.

Digital monitoring is now being expanded across South Tyneside and Sunderland, taking in a wider range of patients.

The question is how far it can be used?

Dr Mickey Jachuck is responsible for bringing the programme together. Credit: ITV

Consultant cardiologist Dr Mickey Jachuck, who is responsible for bringing the programme together, said it has huge potential for that group of patients who are less seriously unwell.

Dr Jachuck said: "What we can do for them potentially is offer them the same level of specialist assessment, monitoring and input that they would receive in hospital but in their own homes."

Over time, as David Lowe learned to manage his condition, he was able to reduce the frequency of his contact with the nursing team.

He is now being discharged from the regular monitoring programme, but knows that help is there as and when he needs it.

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