Improved use of modern technology can revolutionise the care of patients in the Isle of Man according to telemedicine specialist Michelle Falcone.
Michelle spent a year working alongside the Island’s Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and Government Technology Services (GTS) researching the possible uses of telemedicine projects to improve patient care.
In broad terms, telemedicine allows consultations to take place remotely via online video link, as well as enabling clinicians to digitally share scans and results with experts in other countries for input. For a place like the Isle of Man this could reduce the number of off-Island trips made by patients to see UK-based consultants as well as giving greater access to a wider range of diagnostic expertise.
Michelle’s internship was funded by the Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust as part of its commitment to investing in telemedicine for the Isle of Man. During a presentation to medical staff and DHSC members in 2015, the Trust announced it had earmarked £60,000 for investigating the scope for telemedicine development in the Isle of Man.
The investment is part of the Trust’s ongoing work to improve the standard of healthcare in the Island. Established for that purpose in 1888, today the Trust funds equipment, training, research, education and health promotion, as well as improvements to the quality of life for sick, infirm and disabled people in hospital, care settings or their own homes.
Michelle’s work began in February 2016 and she has recently delivered a detailed report on her findings to the Trust and Isle of Man Government.
She explained: ‘The drive to utilise technology to improve the health sector on the Isle of Man will bring significant changes for both clinicians and patients, with telemedicine playing an integral role in improving patient access, decreasing time to treatment, and streamlining the communication between patients and their health care professionals. It will also reduce travel costs and the burden of travelling to the UK, which can sometimes be a difficult experience for patients and their carers. It would also reduce the need for Specialists to travel to the Island to see patients and remove the disruption to clinics caused by adverse weather and flight cancellations.
‘There are many clinicians and healthcare professionals interested in adopting telemedicine into their everyday work, and in doing so, GTS and the DHSC could revolutionise the way patients receive care and connect with clinicians both on and off the Isle of Man.’
Michelle’s work focused on 10 primary areas and all her research has been stored for members of GTS and DHSC staff to access, as well as ongoing projects being handed over.
She added: ‘I am immeasurably thankful to both the Isle of Man Government and the Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust for this experience. The research examined Out of Hour’s Thrombolysis and Tele-stroke, Tele-Dermatology, Tele-Radiology, Immedicare’s Digital Care Hub, Tele-swallowing, Paediatric Neurology Tele-clinic, Teleconsultations, Digital Solutions in Mental Health Services, Tele-Pathology and Telemonitoring for Long-term Conditions.’
The DHSC is currently initiating the implementation of the Immedicare’s Digital Care Hub - where nursing and residential home staff can access expert advice for their residents, when required, reducing the need for hospital admission. It is hoped that this and other areas, including improved remote acute stroke care, could be introduced in the foreseeable future.
Michelle concluded: ‘While there is much progress to be made in all of the categories discussed, we’ve come a long way over the past year in creating the foundation for multiple telehealth initiatives. I will be continuing my input remotely to the project over the next year.’
Trust chairman Terry Groves said: ‘The Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust is committed to supporting initiatives which improve the diagnosis, treatment and care of patients in the Isle of Man, and we believe telemedicine could bring significant benefits for the community.
‘Reducing the cost and stress of off-Island travel for consultations, giving greater and more immediate access to off-Island expertise and diagnostic skills, and assisting Island-based clinicians to continue their professional development without leaving the Isle of Man, are just some of the ways in which telemedicine can help streamline health services. This not only enhances patient care, but could also help reduce costs for the DHSC.’
He added: ‘We are delighted with the extensive work undertaken by Michelle, and with the support and encouragement she received from those she worked with. The Trust is confident this research provides a strong foundation for launching a series of telemedicine-based projects to benefit the Isle of Man and look forward to continuing to work alongside GTS and the DHSC to deliver these initiatives for our community.’
The Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust relies on donations and bequests from the public. If you would like to support the Trust, visit the website www.hbnhealthcaretrust.org.im, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 616108.
Photo - Michelle Falcone.