A residential care home in Cumbria and a specialist complex care centre in Nottinghamshire are the latest to trial an innovative telemedicine unit which allows GPs to complete detailed assessments on patients without leaving their practice – saving time and improving patient safety during the coronavirus pandemic. Pathfinders Specialist and Complex Care centre for physical health needs in New Ollerton is the first home in Nottinghamshire to trial the technology, while Kirksanton Care Home in Millom will be the first home in Cumbria to do so.
The Teki-Hub telemedicine solution, developed by two pioneering GPs, has been adapted in response to the pandemic and is already in use in 18 care homes in England and Scotland. Unlike standard video consultations, the Teki-Hub unit includes high quality diagnostic equipment, enabling GPs and other clinicians to undertake virtual care home rounds, and respond quickly to emergencies, in a safe and efficient manner.
Teki-Hub can use WiFi, mobile or satellite networks to connect reliably to GP practices, community services or hospitals, with care home staff administering tests as directed by the clinician. The equipment includes a no-touch infrared basal thermometer, and set of digital stethoscope, otoscope and tongue depressor attachments, allowing GPs to conduct thorough assessments of a patient’s respiratory, ear nose and throat, and heart health. The in-built video consultation platform allows clinicians and their patients to communicate easily, discuss test results and agree next steps.
Originally developed by Dr Stephen Katebe and Dr Omobolaji Iji to support GP provision in remote communities, Teki-Hub is now providing a solution to the additional risks of in-person consultations during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Hub reduces the need for clinicians to visit care homes and the need for residents to visit healthcare settings. In addition to improving patient safety, associated costs such as PPE and travel time and mileage are minimised.
Trudy Harrison MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Prime Minister and MP for Copeland (including Millom), said: “I’m delighted that some care home residents in my constituency will be among the first to benefit from remote diagnostics consultations with their GPs. Tools such as Teki-Hub have the potential not only to reduce infection risk during a pandemic but also to help deliver care to more patients more quickly and it’s great to see more organisations trialling these new innovations.”
With such a comprehensive set of diagnostic equipment on site at the care home, it is easier for doctors to make a thorough assessment based on each individual’s needs. GPs are also more able to respond to potential emergencies outside of normal care home rounds. Initial trials indicate that use of Teki-Hub can reduce the need for ambulance callouts and emergency hospital admissions.
Dr Graham Crippin from Colne Valley Practice in Kirklees has been using Teki-Hub for planned virtual ward rounds and for ad hoc acute assessments since October 2020. “Examination remains a vital part of the clinical assessment of a patient and, in the current pandemic, Tekihealth Solutions provides the tools to make a remote consultation as similar to a face-to-face consultation as is possible.” Dr Crippin said.
The advanced imaging means that some examinations are even clearer than they would be with the naked eye, with the option to record diagnostics to seek a second opinion where needed. The Teki-Hub solution includes full training and materials to clean the system between uses.
To date Teki-Hub has been used to conduct approximately 180 remote consultations. Initial evaluation conducted by NHS Arden & GEM CSU shows that clinicians have been very satisfied with the quality of the audio and images, and ease of system use, with an average satisfaction score of 4.7 out of 5. While over 90% of patients who have responded to a post-consultation survey rated the overall treatment experience as excellent.
Dr Stephen Katebe, co-founder of Tekihealth Solutions, said: “As GPs ourselves, we fully understand the barriers to providing swift and comprehensive care to care home residents – particularly during COVID-19. With Teki-Hub installed, clinicians can see up to six patients an hour, with no lost time spent travelling, and without the additional risks currently associated with in-person consultations. We’ve seen a significant increase in demand for pilots as NHS organisations look to enhance the quality and safety of care we can provide within pandemic – and financial – constraints.”
A number of different pilots are already taking place in care homes in Staffordshire, Coventry, Wolverhampton and London. GP practices in Cumbria are also using Teki-Hub as part of a managed GP solution, where Tekihealth provides remote consultations with qualified and experienced practitioners to localities with GP shortages.