New device monitors patients' physical health in psychiatric intensive care unit

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust uses optical sensor technology to improve patient safety and monitor the physical health of patients.

MindBody_front.pngAt King’s Health Partners, improving the physical health of patients in mental health settings is one of our Mind & Body programme’s key areas of focus

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is using the Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant in the seclusion suite of Eileen Skellern 1 ward – so that their staff can monitor patients’ physical healthcare needs while still respecting their mental health treatment.

The Digital Care Assistant consists of a wall-mounted device and software, which includes a Vital Signs module that can measure breathing and pulse rate, without the need for a device or wires to be attached to the skin. It means that clinical staff supporting patients in the seclusion suite can obtain vital signs information, without entering their room to carry out a physical examination.

One of many clinical services on the mental health frontline in the COVID-19 pandemic, Eileen Skellern 1 ward, has risen to the challenge of providing high quality mental and physical healthcare to patients at a time when they need it most. Updates to the technology since the COVID-19 pandemic have also been beneficial to patients and clinical staff on the ward, supporting the reduction of close contact with patients where necessary and appropriate.

Dr Faisil Sethi, consultant psychiatrist on Eileen Skellern 1 ward, explained that taking physical health observations can be challenging if patients don’t want clinical staff to enter the room; at times it may be more therapeutic to wait, especially if it means supporting some rest or better sleep. He said:

Mental health patients have a much bigger burden of physical health conditions than the general population, and that can be compounded by the stress of the situation and the medicines they may have been prescribed.
As an organisation and as clinicians, we have a responsibility to maximise the physical health of our patients. Yet taking physical observations can be difficult when a patient is in seclusion.
This project helps us to address that challenge because, without having to be in the same space as the patient, we can collect some critical health parameters to better understand their physical health and wellbeing.

Eileen Skellern 1 ward is named after Eileen Skellern, who pioneered new treatments for patients and roles for nurses within professional teams. The ward has introduced a number of improvements and innovations over the past decade, including a sensory room that patients can use to manage stress and agitation. They have also worked with an arts charity to transform the clinical environment and ensure patients have access to art. The Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant has been introduced to the seclusion suite as another quality improvement project.

Adenike Bolade, ward manager of Eileen Skellern 1 ward, said:

The Digital Care Assistant will enable us to take vital sign observations, even if we are unable to enter the seclusion room, or the patient refuses staff entry.
We have a duty of care to patients, but we also want to respect their wishes. So, this project is about using technology to ensure we can do both, and I am certain that this project will support physical health and wellbeing.

The Eileen Skellern 1 ward team has been collecting data for six months to check that the technology is enabling them to enhance the quality of physical healthcare when monitoring patients in seclusion. Staff and patients are regularly asked about their experiences on the ward.

Robert Rathouse, clinical specialist said:

Patients who require seclusion can understandably be reluctant to engage, and this can be exacerbated by the fact staff have had to keep eyes on the patient so vigilantly.
The new system allows for a more natural interaction between the patient and the observing staff member, allowing in turn for more of a focus on positive engagement. This positive engagement and potential for rapport building can continue once out of seclusion and make for a more therapeutic admission from start to finish.

The ward has achieved low rates of medicine use by introducing other therapeutic interventions. However, patients require medication which can affect their physical health so there is a need for careful observation. The Digital Care Assistant helps patients get the level of monitoring they need. The Oxehealth Digital Care Assistant is already used by one in three of England’s mental health trusts and research has proven its benefit in reducing falls, injuries and A&E admissions for patients with dementia.

South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust is one of a handful of organisations to use the Digital Care Assistant within a seclusion suite and is leading the thinking in this clinical area in a quality improvement initiative.

To read the story in full, visit the South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust’s website.

Liked this story? Learn about the other physical health support for patients in mental health wards on offer across our partnership.

The King’s Health Partners Mood, Anxiety and Personality Clinical Academic Group (CAG) provides a large range of services for people with mood, anxiety, personality and trauma disorders, including depression and self-harm.