The University of Southampton

Southampton computer scientists are part of national team winning prestigious award for helping to save lives and reduce hospital admissions during pandemic

Published: 15 March 2022
Blood oxygen saturation monitor

COVID Oximetry @home was a collaboration between clinical teams, managers and academic partners and involved significant contribution by the University's IT Innovation Centre, based in Electronics and Computer Science (ECS).

The project was awarded the Health Service Journal Patient Safety Award 2021 (HSJPSA) and computer scientists from the IT Innovation Centre played a significant role in the capture and use of data vital to the success of the programme.

During the first wave of COVID-19, it was recognised that people were arriving at hospital and were dying because they were in a more serious condition than their symptoms suggested. Their oxygen saturation levels had fallen to dangerously low levels - called silent hypoxia - without there being noticeable difficulties when they were breathing.

The COVID Oximetry @home project was the rapid expansion of the initial Remote Community Oximetry Care (RECOxCARE) project where the oxygen levels of COVID-19 patients across the south east were measured remotely in a virtual ward programme that allowed clinicians to spot early deterioration, initiate timely escalation and reduce mortality risk.

Pulse oximeters were provided to patients who had been diagnosed with coronavirus and were most at risk of becoming seriously unwell. As the pandemic continued, this patient self-monitoring pathway was rolled out nationally by the COVID Oximetry @Home scheme.

Dr Matt Inada-Kim, National Clinical Lead Deterioration and National Specialist Advisor Sepsis, NHS England and NHS Improvement, and Emergency Consultant at Hampshire Hospitals Foundation Trust, said: "The University of Southampton have been critical in assisting data capture, establishing data sharing agreements and collating the evidence to rapidly stand up national policy on admission criteria in COVID and home oximetry monitoring and evaluation of its effectiveness."

Professor Michael Boniface, Director of the University of Southampton IT Innovation Centre, and leader of the RECOxCARE digital work stream, said: "The technology to remotely observe oximetry, vital signs and symptoms is relatively straight forward, but rapidly integrating observation data into safe clinical processes and across different primary and secondary clinical context raises significant challenges of interoperability and timely access to data needed for direct care."

The HSJPSA judges' citation said: "The judges felt that this was an outstanding example of a true system wide collaboration. This project not only touched the UK but positively impacted people's lives across the world.

"The outcomes were positively overwhelming in relation to lives saved, bed day reduction and early admissions which improved mortality and morbidity rates. It was clear that this approach contributed heavily to the prevention of the NHS becoming overwhelmed during the pandemic.

"The patient testimonial demonstrated the real impact to individuals and added value to the presentation coupled with the passion and authenticity of the presenters."

A paper evaluating the clinical outcomes of the project has been accepted at the British Medical Journal Open Quality. Read the paper here.

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