A report from the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) regarding outpatient care has said the NHS needs to utilise technology already available in a better way.
Along with case studies, the report indicates that it can ease pressures on NHS infrastructure and be of more convenience to both medical professionals and patients.
The report said that telephone and video consultations as well as remote monitoring should be used more often when possible – though stated telephone and video consultations aren’t designed to totally replace face-to-face consultations.
The benefits of such consultations are highlighted such as reduced disruption to patient lives and a reduced need for hospital infrastructure – saying it can ‘increase the resilience of the service’.
Remote monitoring services that were cited include data transfer back to clinical teams for interpretation and portals used for data sharing can alert teams to potential problems – which can trigger more formal reviews and allow patients to submit queries electronically. As a result, this can replace routine face-to-face follow-up appointments, instead allowing patients to trigger the need for a follow-up consultation.
The report concluded that digital technologies need to be selected and implemented carefully by NHS trusts according to local challenges, policies, informatics, funding, and professional and managerial preferences, and “good evidence” that new technologies will support innovation in outpatient services.
In the foreword of the report, Professor Stephen Powls, national director of NHS England, said: “While we know that patient satisfaction with clinicians remains high, it is also true that the various parts of the outpatient journey don’t always deliver the best experience – the too-often uninformative appointment letters; the wait for the appointment; the journey, often at inconvenient times, which can be a major source of stress for older patients; the waiting around in clinic; and, in some cases, the repetition of the entire process when the referral was misplaced or a visit to another specialty is required.
“It’s hard to imagine there is no room for improvement.”