A major project aimed at cutting the number of times patients need to visit the Royal Berkshire Hospital for routine appointments took a big step forward last week with 3 outpatients clinics delivered to patients via video.
Five patients who would normally need to visit rheumatology, physiotherapy and oncology for check-ups were able to have ‘face to face’ appointments with their consultants via video links.
The move is part of an ambitious programme to revolutionise outpatient services at the RBH by linking clinicians and patients virtually. Now the rheumatology and physiotherapy video clinics are up and running, the plan is to introduce virtual clinics in other areas including urology, paediatrics, trauma and orthopaedics and occupational health.
The virtual system, called ‘Attend Anywhere’ allows patients to discuss their progress with medics without the hassle of visiting the hospital. It means they don’t have to take time off work, sort out child care, arrange transport or sit around in waiting rooms.
Senior leaders at the RBH are hoping to reduce the number of people attending routine outpatient appointments over the next five years and Attend Anywhere is key to the success of this.
Consultant Rheumatologist Dr Antoni Chan, who held the first virtual video appointment last week said: “it’s such a simple, easy to use and straight forward way of linking patients with our teams here. They enter a virtual waiting area using their smartphone and we can then link up with them from our computer, tablet or mobile device.
“Our first virtual rheumatology clinic saw five patients and the next day colleagues in physiotherapy and oncology ran a virtual clinic for some of their patients. We were all very pleased with how smoothly it went,” he added.
The patients also praised the virtual system. One said: “The whole thing was really easy - I like being able to speak directly with my consultant and discuss my condition. It would have been a two hour round trip to have the same conversation in person. I am reassured I will still be able to see my consultant as this is vital for checking measurements, but the more regular check ins via video are really reassuring.”
This virtual success story fits in with the NHS Long Term Plan which says that over the next five years 30 per cent of patients should be able to avoid face to face visits whilst still being able to access a modern, flexible health service more swiftly and conveniently.
This way of working also frees up consultant and nursing time to work differently and more effectively in the hospital.
The successful launch of the video clinics comes days after another ground breaking virtual way of working at the RBH was recognised with a national award. Health teams working with kidney patients scooped £30k to run a pilot project aimed at finding more effective and efficient ways of communicating self-care information with patients. They want to move from traditional printed leaflets towards digital systems and immersive content, including some virtual reality content.