Plans are being formulated for a virtual outpatient clinic in Lancaster after surveys online and at outpatient clinics showed more than half of patients asked would be happy for their outpatient appointments to take place via a video consultation as an alternative to attending clinics for a face to face appointment.
A selection of patients and public were asked to give their views on whether different ways of working such as virtual video consultations would be an appropriate alternative to traditional face to face appointments.
This followed a pilot of a virtual outpatient clinic held in April where telemedicine was used within a clinic for patients with Inflammatory Bowel Disease.
As part of the Better Care Together strategy, innovative video consultations are being introduced within Rheumatology outpatient appointments for one of the first times in the county. Staff within the department at Royal Lancaster Infirmary have received training ahead of this development and are scheduled to start using the new equipment during the summer.
Virtual outpatient appointments use high definition video screens which allow health professionals to have consultations with patients without having to be in the same room.
This projects aims to deliver faster access for patients in the most appropriate place.
The engagement found that many patients favoured the idea of virtual clinics as it would eliminate travel time and busy hospital parking. 45% of the people asked said they had to make adjustments to their personal or work life to physically attend their appointment for example arranging childcare.
Video consultations will in time allow patients to access their healthcare professional from the comfort of their home or work office, saving them time, money and travel.
Patients can be assured that they would be given a choice to either have their appointment in hospital or via a video consultation and a video consultation would only be offered where appropriate.
Dr Marwan Bukhari, Consultant Rheumatologist, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay said: “I am excited to be involved in this pioneering method of delivering healthcare which would diminish patient travel time and expense, and would lead to a better patient experience of healthcare”
The findings of engagement activities will be used to shape the service, ensuring that concerns are addressed for example ensuring that the appropriate technology is available to patients.
Carol Masterman, Patient based in Garstang said: “The idea of offering the patient the option of a follow up outpatient appointment using Video Technology sounds very exciting and I think would significantly improve the service offered by the hospital. By providing this choice, the patient is more in control of how their healthcare is delivered and offers the additional benefits of less travel, no parking, less time and less disruption to their personal life in order to receive the care they need”