The doctor will call you now:
Outpatient video consultations for the NHS
The doctor will call you now: Outpatient video consultations for the NHS
May 21st, 2020
With outpatient capacity limited and demand on the NHS increasing now more than ever before, Dan Worman, Executive Director at Cinos discusses why it’s time to reconsider traditional outpatient services and move to digital models of care.
Outpatient services can be difficult for many people to attend and don’t always meet the needs of patients. This often leads to high rates of non-attendance appointments and poor patient engagement. Last year alone there were in excess of 26 million unattended outpatient visits across the NHS.
The reality is that missed outpatient appointments not only result in poor health outcomes and greater use of emergency services but they also contribute to rising costs. With people living longer, many with multiple long-term illness and complications, there is a need for the outpatient care model to be more flexible, responsive and leave patients with a positive experience.
Whether it’s navigating complicated booking methods, lengthy waiting times or delays to see a consultant – the current process contributes to patient as well as staff frustrations and dissatisfaction. For those with complex care needs, attending outpatient appointments can be a traumatic experience. For instance, many stroke patients lose their driving licences after suffering an episode. This makes travelling to appointments more difficult as they have to rely on relatives and loved ones for assistance. In some cases, patients’ needs are better met by residential care and moving from this setting in an ambulance can be a stressful and unsettling experience.
A leaner, greener outpatient model
A large part of the issue is that the current outpatient care model was created at a time when doctors delivered the majority of treatment through face-to-face appointments. The current system not only contributes to the increasing costs and inefficiencies facing the NHS but also the service’s carbon footprint. Its estimated that that the NHS produces higher emissions than the global average for healthcare, making it responsible for 5.4% of the UK’s total carbon footprint.
However, the NHS Long Term Plan sets out the ambition to provide alternative models of care. Its aim is to avoid up to a third of face-to-face outpatient appointments by 2024, instead delivering these interactions through video-link.
Virtual consultations and clinics enabled through video conferencing platforms are poised to have a significant impact on the outdated outpatient system. Firstly, teleconsultations would mitigate the huge cost associated with missed appointments. But secondly and most importantly, video can be a great option for patients who find it difficult to travel. With the current restrictions to our daily life, video consultations also help to contain the spread of viruses like coronavirus. As patients can attend appointments from the comfort of their homes rather than attending more populated areas such as hospitals or clinics.