The GMC report ‘Caring for doctors, caring for patients’ outlined that “Medicine is a tough job, but we make it far harder than it should be by neglecting the simple basics in caring for doctors’ wellbeing.”
A recent survey from the BMA found that 41% of doctors were suffering from depression, anxiety, stress, burnout, emotional distress or another mental health condition relating to or made worse by their work, with 29% saying this had got worse during the pandemic. With a large amount of evidence proving that workplace stress in healthcare organisations not only affects the quality of care for patients, but also negatively impacts the health of doctors, more must be done to look after their wellbeing. The use of digital solutions, such as remote monitoring devices, is one way of helping to ease the workforce burden faced by doctors and deliver the benefits of digital health care.
How can digital help?
Digital innovation is no longer seen as something of the future, as patients demand better access to healthcare and a choice in decisions about their care. COVID-19 has presented the most rapid deployment of healthcare technology, with health and care organisations across the world having no choice but to implement digital solutions to help their services work better and deliver care to those most vulnerable in the safety of their homes.
The rise in utilising existing electronic prescription services, for example, saw an 85% increase in prescriptions being delivered directly to patients at home, which in turn, reduces the pressure on primary care providers by minimising the number of face-to-face interactions. Additionally, 99% of GP practices are now using remote consultation platforms, compared to before lockdown.
The Department of Health and Social Care called for remote monitoring solutions to help care home patients, as well as to support patients with long-term conditions or those discharged from hospital to free up COVID-19 beds during the peak of the pandemic.
Remote monitoring is a key area of technology adoption at both a local and regional level since COVID-19, and will continue to play an important role in easing the increased pressure on doctors. Spirit Digital’s remote monitoring solution, CliniTouch Vie, enables doctors to continue care for patients with long-term conditions without face-to-face interaction, helping clinician teams manage caseload volumes remotely. Doctors are then able to prioritise the most at-risk patients and spend their time more effectively. This overall reduces the risk of cross-contamination at a time when our collective focus has been on protecting our NHS and those who are vulnerable.
A collaborative experience
By connecting patients with their doctor from the comfort of their home, patients are given greater involvement in the management of their health, while healthcare professionals continue to monitor their vital health information. With less congested waiting rooms, the doctors’ schedules are freed up to allow for more patients or important duties to be prioritised. Using remote monitoring solutions such as CliniTouch Vie, clinical teams can access the necessary information on their patients quicker and faster than they would in the traditional setting, which allows them to rapidly assess a patient and intervene when and where more urgent care is needed.
Remote patient monitoring puts everyday wellness at the forefront of patient care. It makes the patients an active participant in their healthcare by empowering them to take control. When patients feel more involved in the process, it is more likely that they will become more invested in improving their health with their doctor’s guidance, allowing for a more collaborative experience for both parties.
Improving doctor’s wellbeing
With regular remote updates, doctors can have more confidence in their ability and time to deliver care remotely, reducing risk to their own health, their families and that of their patients. This technology helps to assist in managing increasing demand without over-stretching already strained doctors and resources.
Remote monitoring devices capture real-time data and record patient vital signs, allowing care to be maintained regardless of the patient’s location. By having enhanced real-time visibility of their patients in a more manageable format, these technologies can help to reduce the stress on doctors during unprecedented times by minimising the administrative side of the doctor’s role, without impacting the quality of care.
Doctors are valuable members of the NHS workforce, and we must build on good practice and initiatives to create the conditions to ensure the NHS attracts, supports and retains its doctors. The smarter use of technology, such as CliniTouch Vie, which gives teams unprecedented real-time visibility of at-risk patients and the ability to run ‘virtual wards,’ must play a key role in the future of healthcare, as well as reducing the burden on doctors.
“Throughout this pandemic doctors and healthcare workers have been painted as heroes – and the efforts that they have gone to in caring for their patients is certainly heroic. But they are not superhuman.” – Dr David Wrigley, BMA Council Deputy chair and Wellbeing Lead