Healthcare is massive sector in terms of both the impact it has on our lives and also the jobs it creates. We all rely on the services healthcare provides to look after us when we are sick or care for family members who have suffered an accident. This industry is also a major employer across the country and a popular career option many people pursue.
If you plan to transition into this kind of career, it is crucial to know that healthcare is always innovating and always moving forward. This helps it to remain relevant over time and offer the kind of care which people expect. Virtual wards are a good example of this currently and an exciting new direction in terms of how we care for those who need it.
This is especially true when you think about people who have long-term conditions which need expert medical support. But what is long-term care, what are virtual wards and how can virtual wards make long-term care provision more effective?
Long-term care a key part of modern healthcare
The healthcare sector might seem like one giant entity, but it is actually made up of many distinct niches and departments. Within this, there are multiple roles, jobs and positions which you could work in.
Long term care nursing is a popular choice for many and this is easy to understand when you see the long term care nurse job outlook. You would need the right qualifications to move into this kind of healthcare role first though and this is especially true if you are switching into long-term care nursing from another industry. Courses such as Marymount University’s online ABSN are a good option for those transitioning into nursing who already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject. Its flexible, online nature is ideal for people looking to get into nursing who may already be working. Programs such as this one provide the essential knowledge around cutting-edge innovations such as virtual wards to set students up for a successful career in modern nursing.
What are virtual wards in ongoing care?
Virtual wards are becoming an increasingly hot topic in terms of healthcare innovations for long-term patient care. In simple terms, they refer to people receiving long-term healthcare support from the comfort of their own home. This is rather than patients physically staying in standard hospital wards or long-term healthcare facilities, such as nursing homes or hospices.
Long-term healthcare support is made available through the latest technologies in the sector, such as video calling, mobile phone apps, wearable medical devices and online healthcare platforms. This technology enables virtual ward healthcare staff to remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure, and provide direct, responsive and expert support as needed.
Virtual wards do not require direct physical contact with patients who need long-term care. This is because all the data collected on their condition is updated to a virtual dashboard online regularly for long-term healthcare staff to view.
It is key to note that in-person support is still an option in terms of long-term care when required, even if someone is being cared for through a virtual ward at home. If a nurse working on a virtual ward becomes alarmed about a patient’s vital signs for example, they would still be able to arrange an at home visit to provide care to the patient.
Why are virtual wards so important for the future of healthcare?
Before we go on to look at the specific benefits of virtual wards in terms of long-term care for both patients and staff, it is worthwhile digging into why they are key for the future of modern healthcare overall. The main reason involves the rapidly growing aging population countries such as the US are seeing.
This aging population means that more people are needing support with long-term health conditions that often accompany growing older. This puts a hefty burden onto long-term health facilities and hospitals when care is offered in the traditional way.
By using blue-sky thinking and the latest technology to find solutions such as virtual wards, the health sector is able to respond to the problem an aging population poses in a way which still guarantees the best patient outcomes. In addition, the benefits of virtual wards discussed below indicate that they are a better long-term care option for people with chronic conditions in many cases — regardless of their age.
This makes it highly likely that virtual wards will become more common in long-term healthcare moving ahead and that staff working in this health niche will need to know more about them. Long-term nursing is a case in point and picking up knowledge around key topics like this is crucial when moving into the sector.
How can virtual wards make long-term treatment more effective for patients?
The health sector is designed to care for patients and focuses its attention on finding the best ways to do this. This in turn enables it to deliver outstanding patient outcomes and provide high-quality treatment to those who need it. Long-term care is a major part of this and requires trained staff to help people manage a range of long-term issues and chronic conditions in their daily life.
Although this may have meant staying in hospitals to have tests done or spending time in long-term care facilities for support previously, virtual wards are quickly changing this. Below are some of the benefits they offer in terms of more effective long-term treatment for patients:
Better access to care
When you begin to think more closely about it, virtual wards are actually a positive move for more effective long-term healthcare in a number of ways. Increased access to the best care is certainly one to consider for patients. The very nature of these wards means that people can access high-level care from the comfort of their own home — wherever they are based and wherever they live in the country.
Patients are no longer tied to being able to physically travel to get the care they need or limited to sub-standard healthcare due to proximity. If someone on a virtual ward needs to speak with a long-term care nurse about their condition for example, they simply pick up their smartphone and make a video call to them!
Enhanced quality of care given
The very nature of virtual wards means that they are more effective in providing the best support for people with long-term health conditions. This is achieved through delivering more personal care to patients, which is powered by the individual data that wearable tech devices upload to online health platforms for staff to view.
Virtual ward technology records a stream of accurate, constant and updated personalized data for staff to view for all remote patients. Nurses can also set up alerts on virtual ward platforms to notify them when a particular patient’s levels go above or below a certain threshold in vital areas. All this enables nursing staff on virtual wards to deliver much more precise long-term care based on the latest information on each individual patient.
The very nature of virtual wards also give long-term care nurses more time to spend with patients. This is because nurses do not have the hustle and bustle of a traditional hospital setting to distract them or take them away from patients. Virtual wards enable long-term care nurses to more closely monitor patients for the same reason.
Round the clock support for patients
A major benefit of virtual wards for patients is the 24/7 support which they deliver. This is achieved through the use of online technology in these kinds of wards and also the presence of trained long-term care nurses at all times monitoring them. Although they might not be physically with every patient, nurses will work shifts on virtual wards in order to maintain a constant level of support.
This means that those on virtual wards can easily reach trained nursing staff via their computer, tablet or smartphone when they need support. This is often a lot easier than trying to get help in a physical hospital ward, when there may be no staff around or all staff are occupied. It also means nursing staff are always on hand to pick up on any alerts, including the latest data received on patients, and to check in with people on virtual wards.
Virtual wards enable stress-free at-home care
When it comes to unique benefits of virtual wards for patients, the ability they give to receive care in a more relaxed, at-home environment is key. Although hospitals and long-term care facilities do a great job in caring for people, many patients find them to be quite stressful places. This is even more pronounced if someone has a long-term condition which means they spend an extended period in a more traditional ward.
Being able to receive long-term support at home via a virtual ward is far more comfortable, a lot more relaxed and much less stressful for most people. This can be a real bonus in terms of not only recovery from health issues but also managing a long-term condition moving ahead. It also means people do not spend extended periods in physical health facilities, where they may pick up extra bugs or health problems to battle.
Being discharged to a virtual ward at home can also be less costly and time-consuming for patients. This is because they do not have the hassle or expense of travelling to a physical healthcare facility for appointments and tests. For those who may have typically been required to enter a long-term care environment to receive support, receiving care at home also cuts back on travelling to the facility in question for assistance.
Easier visiting for friends and family
Anyone who has stayed in a traditional hospital ward or long-term health facility knows that visiting times for friends and family are usually restricted to certain times. While this is understandable in these settings, it can often mean patients can start to feel a little isolated from life.
Virtual wards help here because patients are cared for from home, so there are no rules around visiting set by the hospital or care facility. This is not only great for people’s mental health and being able to see family and friends as much as they like, but it also gives them a sense of freedom when dealing with long-term health issues.
Virtual wards help to empower patients
Modern health is no longer just about trained staff in the sector taking responsibility for people’s overall fitness. Patients themselves are taking more time to pick up the latest fitness tips and becoming more empowered to manage their own health personally.
Virtual wards are one way this is happening and an effective tool to help patients get more involved in their own care. By doing this, people feel more in control of any long-term conditions they may suffer from and are more likely to make changes to their lifestyle and diet which can help. Closer virtual contact with long-term nursing staff is also important in helping to educate people around their own ongoing care.
How can virtual wards make long-term care more effective for staff?
Although many of the benefits virtual wards offer for effective long-term care center on patients, they also deliver some distinct advantages for staff. These are key to note because they show that these kinds of wards provide a 360-degree range of benefits which the entire health sector can take advantage of.
Here are some of the most vital ways virtual wards make long-term care more effective for staff:
Improved patient outcomes
Better quality of care can be one advantage of virtual wards for patients with long-term health issues, but their effect on patient outcomes is also crucial for staff. This is only sensible when you consider the main focus of long-term nursing is to provide the best support to people who need it.
The wealth of data that virtual wards generate for nursing staff to monitor and review enables them to deliver more detailed, precise care to patients. This naturally leads to better patient outcomes and more effective management of long-term conditions. The information collected on virtual ward patients can also be analyzed to spot patterns and trends in their data. This is once again useful for delivering better patient outcomes and helping staff to provide higher quality long-term care.
Safer and more productive way of providing care
The remote nature of virtual wards is another key reason why they make long-term care more effective for staff in particular. As they do not need to be physically present to provide care in this format, they do not run the risk of a violent patient attacking them or a bedpan being knocked all over them by mistake when caring for someone. Virtual wards also mean staff do not pick up any contagious bugs or conditions from those they treat. This means that virtual wards are a safer environment for nursing staff and one where they can operate in total comfort.
It is clear that virtual wards offer a more productive way of working for nurses than more traditional settings. This is because virtual ward nurses do not have the constant distractions working on a normal ward involves, such as relatives phoning up to check when visiting is or a noisier physical work environment. Due to this, working on a virtual ward can help staff be more productive and get more done during their shift. It can also give them more time to spend with patients and keep an eye on their uploaded data.
Impact on patient co-operation and relations
Virtual wards can make long-term care more effective for staff due to their positive impact on patient relations. This can most obviously be seen in how much more relaxed people are when receiving care at home and the positive effect this has on their mood.
As a result, people on virtual wards are generally in a good mood and a pleasure to deal with for nursing staff. They are also usually more open to discussing their long-term care plan and more co-operative in terms of working with healthcare staff, due to their more positive mood. All of this is not only good for how patients feel about the care they receive overall but also means interacting with patients becomes a lot more enjoyable for staff.
More efficient approach to on-going healthcare for staff
In addition to helping staff work more productively, virtual wards also contribute to more efficient long-term care. Patients on these sorts of wards for example can not only be admitted quickly online but also discharged without any delays online too. This not only cuts back on the paperwork nurses need to do for these tasks but means they can do them much faster. Although this is only one example, it shows just how virtual wards can help staff work in a more efficient manner.
Virtual wards offer more effective long-term care
Long-term care is becoming an increasingly important part of the modern healthcare system. This is for both our aging population and also those in a younger age bracket who require it. As a result, new thinking has become essential around how we provide support for these patients. This has led to virtual wards recently becoming more popular and offers a glimpse of how professionals in the long-term nursing sector could care for patients in the future.