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Virtual Consultations: Embracing Innovation
Virtual consultations may be something of a revolution here in the UK, but they’ve been in use across a range of healthcare systems around the globe for a number of years now. So, with the UK now embracing the virtual approach, what does the introduction of virtual consultations mean for the NHS?
Prior to Covid 19, traditional models of outpatient care were not always aligned to meet the needs of patients due to poor service efficiency and modern lifestyle. For many, this meant two things: either not booking an NHS appointment or not turning up to a booked appointment.
Research has revealed the reason for this trend includes poor patient engagement. This unfortunately, leads to poor health outcomes and a greater use of emergency care – leading to rising NHS costs.
The pandemic has meant that the NHS has had to rethink its care models to cater for new ways of living. “Digital presents an important opportunity – stopping the spread of disease whilst increasing NHS capacity, ensuring the NHS can continue to deliver high-quality primary care to patients across the UK.”, Juliet Bauer, former NHS England Chief Digital Officer.
For the Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, “every NHS patient should be offered smartphone consultations”, as part of efforts to put the NHS on a “digital first footing”
Studies reveal there are three core benefits to virtual consultations:
- A more efficient way to carry out patient care
- An improved experience for patients
- Enhancing triage assessments.
Benefits of Virtual Consultations:
1. Improved Efficiency
The current trend reveals that referral rates per head of the population appear to be higher in most specialties and patients are waiting too long to be seen for their first outpatient appointment.
Combatting those waiting times demands improved healthcare efficiency. Also, efficiency is vital when overcoming the challenges beyond the digital transformation of healthcare; so, better and more proactive patient management is essential. This is where virtual consultations come in, as the key to unlocking efficiencies is to allow patients to have simple and real-time access to information; meaning better decisions can be made faster.
Virtual consultations allow clinicians to work from their home; saving time on travel and increasing the number of patients they can assess on a day-to-day basis. Essential referrals can then be made instantaneously and a patient could even speak with a specialist doctor, that same week – instead of having to wait months, as was the case with previous models.
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2. Improved Patient Experience
Patient dissatisfaction was already present before the pandemic, mainly as a result of increased waiting times and shorter consultations.
Since 2009, the number of ‘Did Not Attends’ have increased by 32.1% whereas Hospital and Patient Cancellations have also increased by 150.1% and 124.2% respectively.
However, the introduction of virtual consultations has seen to reduce this number dramatically. By offering a virtual alternative to visiting the hospital for your specialist appointment, means that patients will attend because the cost and travel time of attending the appointment is removed, they do not need to take time off work and they can simply attend the appointment from the comfort of their own home.
The advantages for clinicians is that they’re able to juggle their patient consultation list based on priority, spend time with patients that need urgent advice and their patient experience improves dramatically, too.
3. The Opportunity to Enhance Triage Assessment
Prior to booking a patient into an outpatient clinic, efficient remote triaging can take place to ensure patients would benefit from accessing a specialist outpatient appointment. It allows urgent patient pathways to be prioritised and also streams patients effectively for investigations where appropriate. This saves valuable time, money and improves the overall efficiencies of the service.
The option to assess virtually is also ideal for patients who are self-isolating or social distancing due to the current Covid 19 pandemic. It provides the chance for intuitive patient-relationship management with customisable clinical decision support, enhanced by the media-streaming capabilities of virtual consultations for informed assessments by specialist Clinicians.
We can support you with meeting your RTT targets following agreed pathways and local processes, using either yours or our own market leading digital platforms.
Our seamless approach ensures we work as an extension to your department and all of our services are underpinned by our extensive experience and investment in effective clinical governance and quality assurance. With specialist highly experienced Clinician-led teams available across all specialities, we’re able to mobilise all virtual clinics services within a maximum of 2-weeks.
Click here to read our blog post about 6 issues that the NHS are facing post Covid 19.
If you’re an NHS trust interested us supporting your road to recovery, we can help you with bespoke insourcing services across all specialities for both elective care and outpatient services – including virtual consultations.
In the last 12-months, we’ve treated over 13,000 patients and IDMCS are immensely proud of our overall 97% patient satisfaction feedback score. Want to know more? We’d be delighted to speak with you – just give us a call on 01908 525 726 and we’ll be happy to help. Alternatively, just hit the link below to learn more about our dedicated Clinical Services and virtual consultation services.
NHS Digital. 2020. Hospital Outpatient Activity 2018-19 – NHS Digital. [online] Available at: <https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/hospital-outpatient-activity/2018-19> [Accessed 12 May 2020].