Digital referral app helps support our most vulnerable residents 

County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust have been working with Durham County Council to support local care homes to become more effective and streamlined in the way that we care for some of our more vulnerable residents.

The Health Call app is a unique digital solution that allows care home staff to share information about their residents with health professionals. The digital application has two main functions: it can be used by care home staff concerned about the health of a resident to make a referral to community health services and to monitor the health of residents through regular submitted observations.

Use of the app equips care homes with the skills and technology to help identify and refer residents who are starting to become unwell before their condition reaches crisis point. Care homes receive a pack with tablet and medical equipment to use for remote monitoring plus training and technical support.

By using the specially developed app on a hand held tablet, care home staff are able to digitally upload the results of their resident observations (such as blood pressure and heart rates) to health care professionals who can then review and link this information to the resident’s electronic patient record. Health staff identify and respond to any resident observations outside the normal range, which may be early signs of deterioration.

The system reduces the time that care home staff spend on the telephone, which means they have more time to deliver direct care to residents.

Sandra Smyth, District Nurse and TAP Lead Dales 3 explains: “The information provided by the care home through this app is far more than we ever got over the phone. We can quickly prioritise who we need to see urgently, we are not seeing as many inappropriate referrals from care homes which has freed our time up to see more patients.”

Trained Care Home staff send the medical observations along with any relevant background information digitally to a triage team of clinical experts to review and decide the action to be taken.

The Care Home then receives a message to confirm the referral was received, any initial clinical advice for caring for the patient and the response that will occur.

As well as making referrals, care home staff submit regular observations for residents which means that their clinical record shows what is normal for them, in other words their ‘baseline’. A clinician will review these observations and any signs of early deterioration will be picked up and responded to by community health services.

This helps the creation and sharing of baseline observations to develop a record of what is ‘normal’ for each resident, helping to identify signs of deterioration.

Subsequent developments have included the addition of wound care and undernutrition services for residents. The ability to use the system for video consultation is also being explored.

Care providers found using the Digital Care Home solution:

  • Reduced the time care staff spent on the telephone, freeing up their capacity to deliver direct care
  • Allowed better prioritisation of workloads with more effective and efficient use of local health staff resource
  • Improved the quality of referrals to community health and primary care services
  • Led to a reduction in unnecessary hospital admissions