A health trust based on the Fylde coast has set up a ‘twinning’ project with German healthcare professionals to share technological innovations.
As part of the ‘Transfer of Innovation Project’, a delegation from Cologne visited Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust to see how ‘Telehealth’ – the use of computer technology to treat patients in their place of residence – can be used to the greatest effect.
Stefanie Berger, Head of Business Development for M.Doc, a German healthcare company and project managers Judith Brehm and Hannah Muranko from the ‘Regional Innovation Network: Healthy Ageing’ based on Cologne, met with staff and watched a series of presentations by experts from the Trust and across the North West.
The Transfer of Innovation Project arose from an application to the European Innovation Partnership on Active and Healthy Ageing.
The German delegates said they would use what they had learned to make positive changes within their organisations and a delegation from Blackpool will visit Cologne in May to do the same.
The visitors were welcomed in an official address in German by Matt Cartwright, a Health Informatics Developer for the Trust, who lived and worked in Germany earlier in his career.
They were told that the main aims of the Transfer of Innovation Project were to share knowledge, promote best practice, take up challenges, support innovation and strive for safer and better care.
Veronica Southern, Clinical Lead for Telesolutions for the Trust, said: “It was a great opportunity to share our innovations and developments in Blackpool.
“The Innovation Agency contacted me to see if the Trust would like to bid for European Union funding.
“Our colleagues in Cologne said they were interested in sharing innovation. We were honoured that they would be interested in a home grown project like ours.
“They were pleased that the day was so informative and they heard about so many exciting projects.”
The day featured a live link-up to demonstrate ‘Teleswallowing’ – a technique developed by Veronica whereby patients can be assessed in a care home or in a clinic with the aid of computer technology.
Veronica, a Speech and Language Therapist by profession, led the consultation with a patient and nurse specialist at a clinic in the community.
Veronica said: “The delegates were very impressed and could see how they could use the Teleswallowing system to their advantage.”
The Teleswallowing demonstration illustrated the ways in which Speech and Language Therapists can rapidly and accurately assess a care home resident’s ability to swallow, without the need for face-to-face assessment. Teleswallowing has been proven to work as a highly efficient clinical tool in Blackpool Teaching Hospitals’ Speech and Language Department.
Initial results show that Teleswallowing removes the need for patients to have a care home visit, thus reducing admissions and achieving a wide range of additional benefits.
Dr Liz Boaden, Consultant in Dysphagia and Clinical lead for Mid Cheshire NHS Hospitals Foundation Trust, has also been working with Veronica on the Teleswallowing project.
Steve Bloor, the Trust’s Chief Information Officer, said: “Our Trust has a strong foundation in technology.
“We have many innovative ideas. We need to innovate because people are living longer and with more long-term conditions.
“Our Teleswallowing initiative is just one of our innovations and we are looking at how to expand it to other services.
“We have named our vision ‘The Workplace of the Future’. It’s about wrapping the service around the patient.
“We want to make greater use of remote assessments (through computers) and apps.
“We want to enable remote working and to share skills and knowledge between professionals.”
Benefits of Telesolutions include improved waiting times for patients, cost savings, less travel expenses and a reduction in 999 calls.
Steve added: “We will improve patient care and save money – efficiency is a by-product.
“We need radical change in the way we deliver services.”
Speakers also included Wendy Swift, Chief Executive (Interim) of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals; Steve Adams from the Innovation Agency; Declan Hadley, the Digital Health Lead from Healthier Lancashire and South Cumbria; Chris Endersby, Programme Manager from the Fylde Coast Vanguard; Liz Ashall-Payne from the Organisation for the Review of Health and Care Applications; Michelle Stephens, Research and Development Manager from Blackpool Teaching Hospitals; Andy McArdle, Unified Communications Manager for Blackpool Teaching Hospitals; Glyn Jones, Innovation Programme Manager from Lancashire Care NHS Foundation Trust; Dr Mark Spencer, a GP from the Mount View Practice in Fleetwood and Liz Boaden.
Veronica added: “It will be interesting to see what our German colleagues are doing that has resonances with our work.
“Everyone is moving into the digital age but there is no point reinventing the wheel when someone else has a solution like Teleswallowing.
“The NHS needs a different way of thinking and to link with different partnerships. It’s an exciting world out there and processes are changing.”