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Virtual Wards Patient FAQs

Are ‘virtual wards’ and ‘hospital at home’ the same thing?

“Virtual wards” and “hospital at home” are often used interchangeably, and both refer to programs that provide hospital-level care to patients in their own homes. The goal is to avoid hospitalisation, or to allow patients to go home sooner by providing care to patients after they have been discharged from the hospital. While there may be some differences in the way these programs are set up or operated, they generally share the same core concept of providing comprehensive healthcare services in a home setting.

What health conditions is the virtual ward suitable for?

There are various health conditions that may require ongoing medical attention but can be managed at home with proper support through a virtual ward. If your health condition could be suitable, then your healthcare clinician will assess whether you can be managed at home by a virtual ward team. This can often avoid a stay in hospital, or get you home sooner if you have already been in hospital. The decision whether or not a virtual ward is suitable for a patient is based on several factors including your medical condition, level of support needed, and personal circumstances and preferences.

How big does my room have to be to accommodate the technology?

If you need to have things like your blood pressure or oxygen levels monitored, you will be given equipment that can take readings at home, these are compact or wearable devices. You will also be provided a tablet computer or mobile phone to send your readings back to the virtual ward team. So the equipment and space needed is minimal.

What is the minimum level of support I can expect in terms of using the kit/technology?

After you have been given the kit, a member of Doccla’s support team will call you. Doccla are a company who supply and manage remote monitoring equipment on behalf of the local NHS in Bedfordshire and Luton.

Doccla’s support team will call you to teach you how to use the devices and talk you through taking and entering your first readings. After this you will be able to enter your readings yourself, and these will be monitored by your care team.

If you have any problems with the kit or any questions about how to use the devices, you can contact the Doccla helpline on: 0808 175 0832 (8AM – 9PM every day)

Do I need to be tech savvy to use the equipment?

You do not need to be an expert with technology. You will be supported to use any kit you are loaned by Doccla.

You will be given a mobile phone or tablet computer to enter your readings, this is designed to be easy to use. There is a patient app on the mobile phone or tablet which allows you to:

  1. complete questionnaires about how you feel and enter your vital signs;
  2. send non-urgent messages to your care team; and
  3. receive video calls from your care team.

When you first receive the kit, you will get a phone call to talk you through how to use it. If you have any problems with the kit or any technical support issues after that you can contact the Doccla helpline on: 0808 175 0832 (8AM – 9PM every day)

Do I need to have the internet?

You will be given a mobile phone or tablet with the health monitoring equipment. The mobile phone or tablet is designed to be easy to use. It is already set up and connected to the internet, so you do not need to have internet or Wi-Fi at home, but you will need to have good mobile phone coverage with a data signal.

What if there is an emergency?

Once admitted to the virtual ward a personalised care plan will be discussed between you, your carer, and your healthcare team. This will explain what to do if you become unwell at home. If you have a family member or a friend looking after you, the care plan will be shared with them as well.

If you have equipment to take readings at home (e.g. blood pressure or oxygen levels), you will be told how often you need to take health measurements using the equipment you’ve been given, and the readings will be looked at regularly by your health care team. If these worsen or you are not responding to treatment as expected then changes to your care plan can be made by your clinical team, for example, altering your medication, providing additional equipment to aid with your recovery, or visiting you at home.

If you have any non-urgent questions about your health, your readings, or your treatment you can send a message to the virtual ward team using the mobile phone or tablet you’ve been loaned.

The virtual ward is not an emergency service. If you feel your health gets worse suddenly you must call 111 (for urgent help) or 999 (in an emergency).

Does somebody from my family or a friend need to stay with me?

When it comes to the virtual ward, having someone from your family or a friend stay with you is not a requirement. The virtual ward is designed to provide support and care remotely, and healthcare professionals will guide you regarding any specific needs or support you may require during your treatment. If there are any particular concerns or questions you have about this, it’s recommended to reach out to the virtual ward team for further clarification.

How does this affect the care given by the people already looking after me?

The presence of clear escalation processes in the virtual ward does not replace the care given by the healthcare professionals who are already looking after you. Instead, it serves as a complementary and supportive measure to ensure that appropriate steps are taken in the event of a deterioration in your condition. The virtual ward’s escalation process reinforces the coordination of care, facilitates timely interventions, and provides additional reassurance to both patients and their primary healthcare providers.

Which care professional is responsible for which aspect of care?

Once admitted to the virtual ward you will be cared for by a team of healthcare professionals. Your care will be reviewed by the team who might include nurses, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, carers, and doctors. They will contact you regularly – this could be an in person check up, a telephone or video call.

If people are offered the virtual wards option, do they have to take it even if they prefer going to hospital?

Feedback from patients is that most people would prefer to avoid a hospital stay if it is safe to do so. There are also many health benefits to recovering at home, in familiar and comfortable surroundings.

Your health care team will assess whether your condition can be managed safely at home, and will then work with you, your family or carer to decide whether you are suitable to be treated through a virtual ward. A member of the team will explain how the service works and why they think it would be the best option for you. If you and your carer consent to this, they will refer you into the virtual ward. If you have any questions or concerns you can talk to the care team about them to agree which option would be best for you.

How safe is my data? What happens to my information?

Personal information about your health will only be shared with those directly involved in your care. This may include hospital staff, community teams, care homes, emergency services, GPs and Doccla support staff. Personal information that may be shared includes your name, address, date of birth, gender, medical history, ethnicity and next of kin details. It also includes your vital signs and your responses to the questionnaire in the patient app.

Doccla stores personal information in two secure computer systems. Both systems are protected by passwords so only authorised people have access.

Doccla may also share some personal information (e.g. name, address etc) with the courier that delivers and collects the Doccla box.

If you do not want your personal information used and shared in the ways described above or if you have any questions, please contact the Doccla helpline on 0808 175 0832.