June 17, 2024

How Virtual Wards Work

Learn how virtual wards function

Table of contents

Understanding the operation of virtual wards

Virtual wards are a groundbreaking innovation in healthcare, designed to provide hospital-level care to patients in the comfort of their own homes. By leveraging advanced technology, these virtual wards facilitate continuous monitoring, timely medical interventions, and comprehensive support, transforming the patient care experience. This blog post delves into the workings of virtual wards, highlighting their key components, operational mechanisms, and the benefits they offer to both patients and healthcare providers alike.

Understanding the Concept of Virtual Wards

A virtual ward operates similarly to a physical hospital ward, but within a patient’s home. The goal is to deliver high-quality medical care remotely, managing patients with chronic conditions, those recovering from surgery, or individuals needing continuous health monitoring. Virtual wards utilise a combination of telemedicine, remote monitoring devices, and digital health platforms to ensure patients receive the care they need without being physically present in a hospital.

Key Components of Virtual Wards

1. Remote Monitoring Devices:

Virtual wards employ various remote monitoring devices to track patients’ vital signs and health metrics in real-time. Common devices include:

  • Blood Pressure Monitors: Measure and track blood pressure levels.
  • Pulse Oximeters: Monitor oxygen saturation levels in the blood.
  • Wearable Sensors: Track physical activity, heart rate, and other vital signs continuously.
  • Glucometers: Measure blood glucose levels for diabetic patients.
  • Smart Scales: Monitor weight and body composition.

2. Telemedicine Platforms:

Telemedicine platforms facilitate virtual consultations between patients and healthcare providers. These platforms support video calls, messaging, and telephonic communication, enabling continuous interaction and medical advice.

3. Data Integration and Management Systems:

Health data collected from remote monitoring devices are integrated into a centralized digital system. This system allows healthcare providers to access real-time data, track health trends, and make informed decisions regarding patient care.

4. Clinical Support Teams:

Virtual wards are supported by a multidisciplinary team of healthcare professionals, including doctors, nurses, and specialists. These teams monitor patient data, conduct virtual consultations, and provide necessary medical interventions.

5. Patient Engagement Tools:

Digital health platforms offer tools for patient education, medication reminders, and self-management resources. These tools empower patients to take an active role in their healthcare journey.

How Virtual Wards Operate

The operation of virtual wards involves several steps, each designed to ensure seamless and effective patient care:

1. Patient Onboarding:

The process begins with patient onboarding, where individuals are enrolled in the virtual ward program. This involves setting up the necessary remote monitoring devices, educating patients on their use, and configuring the digital health platform for data collection and communication.

2. Continuous Monitoring:

Once onboarded, patients are continuously monitored using the remote devices. Data on vital signs and other health metrics are automatically transmitted to the central system, where they are analyzed in real-time. For example, Doccla’s virtual ward solution uses a cloud-hosted platform that synchronises data from wearable devices, ensuring that health information is available for review by healthcare providers at any time .

3. Data Analysis and Alerts:

The integrated digital system analyzes the incoming data to identify any deviations from normal health parameters. If any abnormal readings or potential health risks are detected, the system generates alerts to notify the clinical support team. These alerts enable timely interventions, preventing complications and ensuring patient safety.

4. Virtual Consultations:

Healthcare providers conduct regular virtual consultations with patients via telemedicine platforms. These consultations allow for ongoing assessment, adjustment of treatment plans, and addressing any concerns the patients may have. The ability to communicate seamlessly through video calls, messaging, and phone calls ensures continuous patient engagement and support.

5. Personalised Care Plans:

Based on the collected data and virtual consultations, personalised care plans are developed for each patient. These plans are tailored to address individual health needs, incorporating medication management, lifestyle recommendations, and self-care strategies. Doccla, for example, provides digital coaching modules and signposts educational resources to help patients manage their conditions effectively.

6. Patient Compliance and Support:

Ensuring patient compliance with monitoring and treatment regimens is crucial for the success of virtual wards. Compliance monitoring systems track whether patients are following their care plans and taking their measurements regularly. If a patient misses a scheduled measurement or deviates from the treatment plan, a member of the support team contacts them to provide assistance and reminders. This proactive approach helps maintain high compliance rates, which is reflected in Doccla’s over 95% patient compliance rate.

7 Integration with Healthcare Systems:

Virtual wards integrate seamlessly with existing electronic health records (EHR) and other healthcare systems. This integration ensures that all patient data is consolidated and accessible to healthcare providers, facilitating coordinated care. Doccla’s platform, for instance, supports two-way communication with NHS systems such as SystmOne, Cerner, and EMIS, ensuring comprehensive data exchange and interoperability.

Benefits of Virtual Wards

The operational model of virtual wards offers several significant benefits:

1. Improved Health Outcomes:

Continuous monitoring and timely interventions lead to better management of chronic conditions and acute illnesses, reducing hospital admissions and improving overall health outcomes.

2. Patient Comfort and Convenience:

Receiving care at home eliminates the need for hospital stays, enhancing patient comfort and reducing the stress associated with hospital environments.

3. Optimised Healthcare Resources:

By reducing the burden on hospitals and enabling better resource allocation, virtual wards contribute to more efficient healthcare delivery.

4. Cost Savings:

Virtual wards are cost-effective, saving healthcare systems money by reducing hospital admissions and shortening lengths of stay. Independent studies have shown significant returns on investment for virtual ward services .

5. Enhanced Patient Engagement:

Digital tools and personalised care plans empower patients to take an active role in managing their health, leading to better adherence to treatment and improved health behaviours.

6. Access to Care:

Virtual wards improve access to healthcare, especially for individuals in remote or underserved areas, ensuring they receive timely and appropriate care without the need for travel.

Virtual wards represent a transformative approach to healthcare, combining advanced technology with comprehensive clinical support to provide high-quality, patient-centered care at home. By understanding the components and operations of virtual wards, we can appreciate their potential to revolutionize healthcare delivery, improve patient outcomes, and optimize healthcare resources. As healthcare systems continue to evolve, the adoption of virtual wards will play a crucial role in shaping the future of healthcare, making it more accessible, efficient, and patient-friendly.

Doccla’s successful implementation of virtual wards highlights the effectiveness of this model, paving the way for broader adoption and integration into mainstream healthcare practices. The continuous development and refinement of virtual ward technologies promise even greater benefits in the future, ensuring that patients receive the best possible care in the most convenient setting.


Simao Saco

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