After much thought, deliberation and planning, the concept of the Equipod was born and then quickly put into action.

Many professionals would agree that one of the key challenges within the health and social care sector, particularly in the time of COVID-19, has been ensuring that different disciplines continue to work together in the on-going care of patients. This has been especially true in the area of community mental health where many individuals require also require regular support with their physical health needs. This was especially true during lockdown, when face-to-face access was near impossible, yet even in more ‘normal’ times, access to services can be difficult for many. For people residing within in-patient mental health facilities, gaining access to external professionals can be both time-consuming, anxiety provoking and uses resources that could be more productively used in other areas of rehabilitation.

Whilst lockdown was a busy time for services, it did also give some time for reflection on the things we had previously taken for granted on how we practice and how this could change for the better in a world post COVID-19. It was this process which led the team within Equilibrium Healthcare to look at ways in which better access to professionals could be facilitated for patients at Eleanor Hospital, in light of the specialist women’s service that was planned to open during this time.

After much thought, deliberation and planning, the concept of the Equipod was born and then quickly put into action. Due to be operational in 2021, the pod situated within the hospital’s new Wellness Centre is a virtual reality experience connecting patients to professionals and others involved in their care across the country, and even across the world.

Innovative technology, conceptualised by clinicians in collaboration with IT specialists has been used to create a bespoke service whereby patients can independently access the widest range of services within the safety of the hospital environment. Medical equipment connected through cutting edge video conferencing allows external professionals access to real-time health information such as BMI and BP without the need for face-to-face consultation, and provides future scope for services from optometry to cardiology to be offered from the comfort of the centre.

To allow for complete independence, the unique booking system allows the professional complete control of the appointment, with minimal need for support unless the patient desires this. Facial recognition technology will allow the individual to attend independently and screen outside the room explain how the appointment will be facilitated. If support is required from hospital staff during the appointment, the professional will have access to a dashboard that will alert the hospital of this with minimal distress to the individual.

Still very much a developing concept, there is further to go before the design reaches its full potential, but in allowing patients at Jigsaw to access services during the pandemic and beyond, the pod is a huge step forward in making first class healthcare available to all.

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