University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust (UHB) – the UK’s largest NHS trust – is trialling new technology in the form of an always-connected remote diagnostic station to help transform the way it delivers care to patients.
Developed by BT, the station is designed to enable clinicians to work with multidisciplinary teams and give remote clinical support using digital stethoscopes and electrocardiograms (ECGs) to review and provide diagnoses for patients – away from their locations – in real time and over a converged 4G/5G and Wi-Fi network.
The station includes a high-definition (HD) camera that can be worn by health staff in the patient setting, giving clinicians a clear bedside view of patients.
UHB is currently trialling the station in its Norman Power Centre, an off-site, purpose-built facility that provides high-quality intermediate care for patients who are preparing to return home. Experienced clinicians from the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, supported by nursing colleagues at the centre, have been testing real-time and virtual consultations using the station’s end-to-end connectivity.
“The remote diagnostic station very much fits with the trust’s vision of innovation,” said UHB consultant geriatrician Zoe Wyrko. “It allows us to link professionals and teams in different settings with each other so that skills and expertise can be shared. Patients can be treated effectively and safely in the best environment for them.
“The trial at Norman Power has shown us the potential of the equipment, and I believe that such innovations will help strengthen relationships and co-working with health and social care partners across the Birmingham and Solihull system.”
Fotis Karonis, CTIO at the BT Enterprise unit, said: “Our strength in partnership with UHB is formed by a joint vision to deliver the best care for patients and clinicians through the power of innovative technology and the best converged network. At a time when the NHS needs more support than ever before, our remote diagnostics station is significantly reducing care time and enhancing the efficiency of NHS professionals that are already so time-constrained.
“We know that technology can make a significant difference for our healthcare system and the connected station is another great example of this.”
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The trial complements UHB’s outpatient video consultation activity, which has expanded in recent months to keep patients safe by providing clinical expertise away from the trust’s hospitals during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic. It also follows on from the announcement in November 2019 that UHB was using the then recently launched BT 5G network in the city of Birmingham and surrounding area for trial healthcare communications over a 5G-connected ambulance, combining virtual, augmented and robotic technology.
In the trial, clinicians at the Medical Devices Testing and Evaluation Centre in the trust’s simulation lab, located in its Institute of Translational Medicine, were able to assess and diagnose a patient remotely – viewing medical records, taking vital signs and ultrasound scans – from a 5G-connected ambulance, provided by South Central Ambulance NHS Foundation Trust, located more than two miles away.