The Ireland Government is set to launch the Acute Virtual Ward programme at Limerick University Hospital and St. Vincent’s University Hospital, Dublin, Ireland.

Starting in early 2024, the Virtual Ward programme aims to help doctors and nurses treat patients in their own homes using digital technology.

The programme, which builds on existing remote monitoring, will provide services for respiratory and cardiology patients in each site.

More Virtual Wards are planned to be commissioned in 2024. Additional conditions are also planned to be added as part of the phased roll-out.

Ireland Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “Expansion of virtual services and the effective utilisation of digital technology in healthcare needs to happen. The technology-enabled scheme also supports patients’ preferences for better-integrated services, closer, or indeed in their own homes.”

The ministry expects the programme to potentially save more than 8,000 bed days per year in each of the acute hospitals, providing practical solutions to bed shortages.

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Said to be suitable for a range of different conditions, the hospital-at-home scheme will allow patients to be monitored by doctors and treated for their illnesses in their homes.

These patients will remain under the care of their doctors, and healthcare professionals and ward rounds will involve video calls or home visits.

Electronic gadgets such as blood-pressure cuffs, thermometers, and oximeters, will be offered to the patients to allow hospital staff to collect data about their health in real-time.

Donnelly has funded the launch of a further 1,100 (net) acute hospital beds and a 25% growth in capacity for critical care.

However, the country’s health service still lacks beds than it needs, Donnelly said.