The Rise of the Virtual Ward

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Tina Hanlon
General Manager and Clinical Solutions Director PFM
The information available on a virtual ward is tailored to the exact requirements of the people using it, meaning that information is easily accessible and not cluttered with irrelevant data.
Virtual wards are an indispensable part of Cambio PFM. So what are they? How are Trusts using them and what benefits are they realising?

A virtual ward is basically a list of people that share a common characteristic and are of interest to a particular group of people. For example in Chesterfield Royal Hospital Foundation Trust all patients who have been referred to the social workers can be viewed in a single view and domestic services have their own virtual ward to manage bed cleaning requests. Hear first-hand from the Facilities Service Manager as to the difference their virtual ward is making.

The virtual ward entries can be sorted and filtered, enabling teams to manage workloads and prioritise interventions. Pharmacies in several trusts have their own virtual wards and are realising benefits in many ways, including more timely delivery of medicines on the day of discharge and the tracking of all admissions to support effective and auditable medicines reconciliations within 24 hours of admission. By being able to see the demand across the whole hospital, the use of scarce pharmacy resource has been greatly improved.

Being able to sort patients in order of 'expected date of departure' has enabled therapists at Chesterfield to manage their workloads more effectively with a clear focus on reducing unnecessary delayed discharges.
We are now receiving a request from teams across the trust nearly every week for a new virtual ward. Recent requests have included: chaplaincy; tissue viability; anti-coagulation and mental health assessment, to name but a few. They are constantly finding new ways to utilise this area of their patient flow technology!
Steve Jessop, Chief Nursing Information Officer at Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals
The first virtual ward that was implemented at Hull, the Diabetes ward, is saving the trust thousands of pounds each year, as well as reducing the length of stay of patients with diabetes.
Another virtual ward at Hull that tracks outliers, is greatly contributing to patient safety by ensuring continuity of care and appropriate clinical review of outlying patients. The improved patient management has led to a reduction in average length of stay of outliers.

The development of a virtual ward often brings multi-disciplinary teams together and acts as a catalyst to understanding problems, enabling learning and making process improvements.

Bed managers use patient placement virtual wards to assess available bed capacity and determine where every empty bed is in the trust without having to leave their base. They can look at how many patients are expected to leave the hospital today and manage the movement of previously identified step-down candidates. Discharge teams use virtual wards to assess and progress delayed discharges.

Trusts are making considerable savings each year through a reduction in phone calls and paper when they move to doing referrals and status updates electronically on PFM. This combined with the use of the virtual wards enables collaborative working leading to a more effective and efficient delivery of the right intervention at the right time in the right place.

All these time savings are radically increasing the time care professionals have to spend on patient centric actions without increasing staff levels or costs.