The Future of Healthcare: The Potential and Challenges of Virtual Wards

By Danélia Botes

November 14, 2023

Embracing the Potential of Virtual Care

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently recommended the exploration of virtual wards in healthcare. Virtual care is not a new concept. Recent health crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, have propelled it into the spotlight. Virtual care, including telehealth and remote patient monitoring, has shown great promise in improving access to care, especially for those in remote or underserved areas. For example, early warning scores, such as NEWS2 and CRB65, are transforming the way we assess patients with suspected Acute Respiratory Infections (ARIs). These scores offer a promising avenue for clinical decision-making, especially in remote settings like call centres or primary care. They can be instrumental in determining care pathways, such as whether to send patients home, to ARI virtual wards, or to same day emergency care.

 

The Future of Remote Contact with NHS Services

Remote contact with National Health Service (NHS) services is gaining momentum. The guideline committee has made recommendations based on their expertise and experience, despite the fact that there is a lack of evidence on the use of remote assessments for those who have a suspicion that they have ARI. They are of the opinion that remote evaluations can be a beneficial tool for identifying persons who do not have major illnesses. However, they believe that an in-person assessment is essential for people who do have severe diseases.

The committee has also emphasised the significance of accessibility. Recognising that not everyone has equal access to or the capacity to use digital technology. However, they have emphasised the value of accessibility nonetheless. As a result, they have suggested that alternatives should be provided whenever they are required, and that the NHS has a responsibility to give reasonable adjustments to patients who have requirements in this regard.

As a result of the committee’s recommendations, antimicrobial stewardship is expected to be improved. This will lead to the beginning of a new era in healthcare. This will be accomplished by reducing the amount of antimicrobials that are prescribed without an in-person assessment.

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