Virtual hospital appointments save thousands of miles for patients

Dr Stuart Kyle, rheumatology consultant

Dr Stuart Kyle, rheumatology consultant - Credit: NDHT

Virtual hospital appointments have saved more than 9,000 miles of travel, according to a new survey.

Patients who responded to a survey by Northern Devon Healthcare NHS Trust alone broadly praised the experience of seeing their hospital team or consultant from their own home during the coronavirus pandemic.

Those who still needed to attend hospital said that their appointments felt safe and well organised.

The trust invited feedback on outpatient appointments held during the pandemic. Feedback from patients about telephone appointments was overwhelmingly positive, with the strongest theme from patients that it had saved them time, effort and expense in travelling.

The vast majority who had video appointments said it was easy to connect and 92 per cent said they would like their consultation by video in future. Eight patients avoided round trips of more than 100 miles each.

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Other benefits reported included less anxiety by not having to attend hospital, not having to find childcare or take siblings, and finding it easier to talk from the comfort of home.

North Devon District Hospital’s rheumatology team has already won a national award for its work on virtual video appointments before the pandemic. Now 70 of the hospital’s services use video conferencing where appropriate instead of face-to-face outpatient or follow-up appointments.

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Dr Stuart Kyle, rheumatology consultant, said: “When we started this project in 2019, we wanted to introduce a remote appointment option to reduce travel time and costs for our patients.

“Here in North Devon, significant travelling distances meant that a 15-minute appointment sometimes required a patient to have half a day away from work. Reducing the need to travel makes a huge difference to our patients.

“During the COVID-19 pandemic, our team were able to use this video technology straightaway to continue to see some patients, and more teams at the Trust started using it too.

“Combined with telephone appointments, we were able to keep in touch with lots of patients without them needing to leave home.

“There are clear benefits to patients in continuing with video and telephone appointments. We will still be asking to see some patients face-to-face where clinicians think it would be appropriate, but when that’s not needed, these remote options will help our patients fit hospital appointments into their lives much more easily.”

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