By Lucy Ashton
A patient has praised the use of innovative technology, which kept him out of hospital over the winter by allowing clinical experts to monitor his chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, while he remained in the comfort of his own home.
Former lorry and tour bus driver Olaf Schneider, 67, was diagnosed with COPD in 2019, a condition that has a huge impact on his breathing, movement and everyday life. COPD affects approximately 120,000 in Scotland and is the second most common reason for emergency hospital admissions.
Since May 2020, COPD patients in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde have been given the opportunity to monitor their symptoms at home by registering to use the DYNAMIC-SCOT COPD Digital Service, a project pioneered and piloted by the NHSGGC-hosted West of Scotland Innovation Hub.
Olaf is one of those patients. By using the app on his smartphone or other devices, he gets access to a range of self-management tools, notifications for daily patient symptom and care reports that allow the clinical team to proactively monitor his condition remotely and provide advice, treatment and care.
The system also connects with fitness trackers and respiratory devices and enables patients to message their clinician, specialist nurse team and community respiratory response teams in real-time, improving efficiency of daily care, particularly during Covid-19.
The winter months can often be a hard time for those living with COPD, with a higher risk of respiratory infection and illness. Olaf himself struggled at points over the winter, but thanks to the technology at his fingertips, was able to receive the care he needed from his home in Paisley, without having to go to hospital.
The grandfather said: “Living with COPD means that at times it feels like someone has put steel around your chest and you’re unable to breathe anymore, in those moments it’s terrifying.
“The technology has been hugely beneficial for me, before if there were any issues we would have to get over to the hospital, which involved me moving and my wife having to travel with me and bring a wheelchair as I am unable to walk for any distance.
“Using the app means I have access to my consultant and can provide real-time updates on my condition to the team in Glasgow, who are amazing. They respond to me so quickly and I feel very supported. It gives me peace of mind when I need it most, knowing there is someone at the other end of an app monitoring my condition who can assist me if needed.
“I would recommend to anyone who has COPD to consider signing up to this as it means I can stay at home and be around my family, that’s so important for me.
Olaf is one of around 500 patients who have trialled the technology, which was developed collaboratively by digital health start-up Lenus Health and the NHSGGC clinical team. Following its success the service has been rolled out to health boards across the country.
Olaf with his wife Linsey enjoying a day out.
Linsey, Olaf’s wife, highlighted the impact the technology has had on the entire family.
She said: “The system is great, we are so pleased that it means Olaf can stay at home with us while his condition is being monitored. Olaf doesn’t like us to worry but when his COPD flares up it can be really scary.
“Knowing that there are experts looking after him remotely gives him peace of mind, but it’s also comforting to all of us too.”
Early data taken from patients who have been using this system show a clear reduction in hospital admissions.
Dr Chris Carlin, Consultant Respiratory Physician for NHSGGC, said: “The whole team are delighted to see patients engaging with a system that allows them to receive the same high-quality care from the comfort of their own home.
“Patients like Olaf know that when they have a flare-up in their symptoms, they don’t need to press the crisis button, they don’t need to present themselves to the emergency department, they can speak with an expert through the app who can provide real-time updates, advice and treatment.
“This system not only has a hugely positive impact on the patients using it, but on hospital teams too.”
Paul McGinness, Chief Executive Officer of Lenus Health said: “Transforming COPD care with digital tools has been a critical step towards reducing hospital admissions, and I am delighted to see the significant impact the Lenus service has had in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.
“By implementing a supported self-management approach, care teams at NHSGGC have demonstrated digital tools can provide access and improve outcomes for patients who may otherwise fall through the gaps. It’s a testament to the power of innovation and collaboration in healthcare, and I’m excited to see the potential for further uptake across the NHS”.