Using Virtual Clinics in Oncology

9 Apr 2018 | MDT, Virtual Clinic

The option of being able to talk to your doctor over video is fast becoming an expectation, not just a ‘nice to have’. There are a number of obvious use cases, for example mental health assessments, stroke assessments, GP consultations etc. There are also clinics where this isn’t practical.

One use case I feel passionately about, is having the option for holding virtual clinics for cancer patients. The main reason being is the benefits it provides for patients, the most important thing. Having suffered a loss in the family to cancer recently, virtual clinics would have been an invaluable tool to my family.

The treatments needed for oncology patients are often very intense and can require an awful lot of travelling, especially if the specialist clinic doesn’t happen to be in their area. With the merging of trusts and therefore, department’s out of area clinics are becoming more and more common. If a patient has to attend the clinic for treatment, then travel must happen. If, however, a routine follow-up or any regular consultation is happening, it makes much more sense to do this over video (if the patient is happy to do so). This means they can stay in the comfort of their own home and avoid travelling altogether.

The last thing a patient, who is undergoing intense treatment, needs is unnecessary travel and discomfort. An oncology patient’s treatment pathway can take any number of routes depending on their location, type of cancer and chosen treatment and some appointments require a journey of several hours in hospital transportation for a 15-minute chat. This can cause unnecessary discomfort for the patient as well as costing money for the trust to transport these patients. This is generally where departments see the highest rates of Did Not Attends (DNA’s), which are causing a huge amount of strain on the system that is already overloaded. Video appointments have, so far, shown to reduces DNA’s.

The other consideration here, is the immediate family may also live several hours away, as was the case in my family. In order to provide the appropriate moral support, and sometimes transportation, weeks of work were being missed to travel for appointments. Having the option to join a portion of these over video would have also reduced a great deal of strain for us. Also, when snow hit we were stranded and appointments had to be cancelled. This doesn’t benefit anyone!

If we can improve the patient experience, save money and reduce DNA’s this is a no-brainer, surely?

Involve are undertaking a study on the effects of video appointments on cancer patients. This is being done with Macmillan and Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, so watch this space.

Contact us to find out more about using virtual clinics in Oncology.