Flu-ID, which was launched by the UK’s second-largest healthcare at home provider Cera earlier in November, can detect deteriorating flu symptoms in older people up to 30 times faster than traditional methods and reduces diagnosis time from days to minutes, thus enabling faster treatment time and allowing patients to be treated in their homes rather than in hospital. The technology was launched in response to research suggesting that the flu season, combined with COVID-19, could overwhelm the NHS this winter. For example, projections by The Academy of Medical Sciences have predicted up to 7,000 hospital admissions from flu every week through winter and The British Medical Journal has also launched research which found that people who contracted both the flu and COVID-19 at the same time were twice as likely to die than those who caught either virus in isolation. Cera carries out up to 45,000 in-person home visits every day, carried out by a network of 10,000 carers and nurses and Flu-ID is available to all of its clients.
The technology is the first of its kind and monitors data such as a person’s temperature, heart rate, blood pressure and daily sleeping patterns which are inputted into an app daily by visiting carers and nurses.
Using this data, Flu-ID can effectively detect any worsening in a person’s condition, while they are still in the comfort of their own home.
Dr Ben Maruthappu, CEO of Cera explained why Flu-ID will help to prevent an NHS crisis this winter.
He said: “Sadly, the upcoming winter is going to be one of the most difficult in the NHS’s recent history due to the combined threat of COVID-19 and Flu season.
“This is particularly concerning for older people, who are more clinically vulnerable to both viruses.
“Every time an older individual is admitted to hospital with flu, they risk catching secondary illnesses including COVID-19, and we’ve learnt from the pandemic that treatment at home, where possible, leads to better outcomes.”
“By empowering our carers and nurses with innovative technology and key health data, we can help to reduce hospitalisations and free up beds.
“By leveraging data, we can identify the onset, or worsening, of Flu much earlier than traditional methods, and provide our clients with the healthcare they need sooner and, critically, in their own home rather than a hospital.”
Dr Maruthappu added: “By developing and implementing technology that detects flu much faster, we can catch it on days one or two instead of on days five or six, which not only delivers better health outcomes but also protects vital NHS resources.”
However, When asked if he thought that Flu-ID alone would be enough to prevent the NHS from being overwhelmed this winter, Dr Maruthappu told Express.co.uk: “While Flu-ID will be a valuable tool in tracking and treating flu symptoms this winter, it is just one important part of a much broader ecosystem we must build to protect older and vulnerable people, as well as the NHS.
“In parallel to Flu-ID, we also need continued guidance from the government with respect to social distancing, PPE and COVID-19 testing and tracing, as well as additional resources for the social care sector to ensure healthcare is being delivered in communities rather than hospitals or local surgeries.”
“Getting vaccinated, wearing masks where necessary and staying home if you feel unwell, are the easiest ways to help protect yourself and others this winter. “
Dr Maruthappu also said that Cera is using similar technology to detect coronavirus which it has been using to support its clients throughout the pandemic.
He added that Cera believes that technology and data are key to bettering healthcare services.
He said: “Flu-ID is just one example of the crucial role data can play in the health and wellbeing of older people, as well as the UK’s broader approach to healthcare.
“We are implementing this technology with very much a long-term view, and will continue to leverage digitalisation and data analytics to move more and more healthcare services out of hospitals and into the home.”