Managing the health of vulnerable groups during COVID-19

A new research project at Trinity will explore the use of Telehealth to enhance the management of vulnerable groups during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project is being led by Professor Orla Hardiman, Professor of Neurology at Trinity and Consultant Neurologist at Beaumont Hospital (pictured).

Professor Hardiman’s research has been funded by the recent ‘COVID-19 Rapid Response Call’ research initiative by the Health Research Board and the Irish Research Council.

 

Attendance at the specialist amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)/ motor neurone disease (MND) multidisciplinary clinic (MDC) at the National Centre (Beaumont Hospital)  is associated with better outcomes.   While patients and caregivers value the “one stop shop” nature of the service, they find travelling long distances to the clinic burdensome as the condition progresses.

Also, on average most of the patient’s time in the clinic (70%) is spent waiting for review by members of the multidisciplinary team, with only 30% of time spent with members of the multidisciplinary team.

Interviews with patients and their families tell us that we need a more flexible and responsive system to meet their needs, and that will help improve the  efficiency of how we provide care.

The research team will implement, evaluate and modify a new patient/caregiver-oriented telemedicine system developed by our collaborators in Sheffield University, to provide immediate virtual support for those with Motor Neuron Disease (MND) and Frontotemporal Dementia (FTD)  and related conditions.   They will examine the strengths and opportunities for modification of this system, tailoring it to enhance care for Irish patients and their families.

 Speaking on the importance of this research, Professor Hardiman said:

The COVID-19 pandemic has made patients and their families reluctant to attend their GPs or visit the hospital, creating a high risk of patients experiencing untreated complications of their condition, and breakdown of care that is usually provided by family members and community-based services. Remote and accurate tracking of person’s clinical symptoms, early recognition of new symptoms and timely home-based visits are very important.   The telemedicine system will allow us to efficiently monitor people in real time, and deploy team members to those most in need, allowing continuation of high quality patient centred care despite the limitations posed by Covid-19.

 In the longer term, this telemedicine system will be adjusted to improve how care is provided between the hospital and the community services to improve the experience of patients and their families.

More information: You can find out more about the research of the Neurology Department (School of Medicine) here: https://www.tcd.ie/medicine/neurology/