Virtual Clinics in NHS – Virtual Clinic Services for NHS Trusts
Nottingham University Hospitals Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support have successfully piloted a pioneering approach to consultations, by using the Virtual Clinic platform by Involve to offer patients with brain metastases the option of having their consultation over video from the comfort of their own home.
The pilot was part of an initiative to launch a specialist team to help improve care for patients with secondary brain tumours across the East Midlands. Micheal O’Cathail, Clinical Oncology Specialist Registrar shares why the Trust started using Virtual Clinic: “We wanted to utilise remote consultations in a regional clinic setting which aims to assess and follow up patients who are being considered for specialist radiotherapy for brain metastases. As these patients are unable to drive, coming to clinic can be onerous so we wanted to bring specialist care to the patient rather than bringing the patient to us.”
Virtual Clinic is an N3 based Digital Outpatient service. Once the appointment is booked on the online booking portal, the clinician and patient will both receive a link over email just before the scheduled appointment time to access the virtual meeting environment in which the consultation will be held. When the appointment is over, the email link will be redundant, and the meeting room will no longer exist, which makes the platform highly secure (additional security measures exist).
“The Trust chose to pilot Involve’s solution, due to the huge advantage of having an online booking platform which sends unique email links for the patients to access the virtual consultation room without the need for them to create an account, making the solution secure and easy to use for patients. We wanted to assess feasibility of using Virtual Clinic in a real-world clinical setting, so after a rigorous internal governance process, we set up the platform with a consultant clinician” continues Micheal. “The implementation of the software was straightforward, and we found the team at Involve to be professional at all stages.”
Patients were offered the choice of video consultations, and during the pilot 37% of appointments in the brain metastases clinic were held via Virtual Clinic. The Trust understood the importance of maintaining a high-quality service, so they thoroughly assessed both clinician and patient feedback throughout. “Initially, the clinician involved in the pilot was sceptical regarding the usefulness of virtual assessment, but is now converted to the concept, having seen the benefits of reducing unnecessary patient travel whilst simultaneously being reassured that the consultation process felt as complete as face-to-face appointments,” says Micheal.
“The feedback from patients has been unanimously positive, with them citing that they found the time they saved from avoiding travelling, and the prevention of disruption as the main benefits from using the Virtual Clinic platform. 95% of patients involved in the pilot have said they would like to continue seeing their clinician via Virtual Clinic.”
“One elderly patient is the main carer for his wife, and he would usually attend his appointments via hospital transport which was a 6 hour round trip. After his video appointment, he told us that using Virtual Clinic had allowed him to continue caring for his wife whilst receiving expert care. Being able to provide a patient centred service that brings specialist care to them is rewarding for all involved.”
Due to the success of the pilot, Nottingham University Hospitals are looking to expand their use of Virtual Clinic. Micheal shares with us the Trust’s plans: “Within Oncology, we see great potential in utilising Virtual Clinic to reduce footfall in our outpatients and extend the benefits to the wider oncology patient group. With this in mind, further pilots are being planned in our Chemotherapy clinics and our Late Effects clinic.”
To find out more about Virtual Clinic, please get in touch.