Improving patient outcomes using virtual appointments
In 2018, Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust received start-up funding from the Health System Led Investment Fund to deliver video appointments. After a detailed procurement process, Visionable were selected as a suitable supplier.
Subsequently Southern Health have worked closely with Visionable to develop a Virtual Consultation platform. Southern Health use Visionable virtual consultation software primarily for patient consultations, which has seen a huge increase in usage since the outbreak of Covid-19.
Patients often struggle to get to their appointments or miss them altogether. Video appointments give patients choice in how to receive the care they need while protecting vulnerable patients and those with physical or mental health challenges.
The aim of the project was to enable the delivery of video appointments across the Trust in order to improve patient access to services, improve patient experience, improve patient outcomes, improve the efficiency of the clinical service and deliver cost savings.
This project supports the national NHS Digital First programme which aims to give all patients the right to virtual consultations by April 2021.
From the outset of the project Visionable and Southern Health have worked collaboratively to create a user-friendly version of the Visionable Virtual Consultation software with a joint goal of delivering a platform that meets patient and clinician requirements and fulfils the project objectives.
Visionable has provided a safe and secure method of delivering clinical care to the patient in the safety of their home and the following Southern Health services have adopted the use of video appointments: Children’s Services – Health Visiting and School Nursing, italk, the Primary Care Psychology Service, Continence Service, Physio and Perinatal Services.
Southern Health recognised that they needed a cultural shift to deliver patient care differently. Initially services were slow to integrate Video Appointments into their service delivery then COVID caused a “digital explosion” which enabled rapid culture change. Video Appointments have enabled continuity of care during the crisis. In the week of 11/03/20 total calls were 166. The next week this was 822 and the week after, 1288 – a daily average of 191 calls. This trend continued with a daily average by mid-August of 157 calls exceeding project targets by 35%. Working with clinical services Southern Health identified the opportunity to rapidly increase availability, ensuring that 50% of lost capacity through COVID could be re-purposed to ensure the most critical cases were being cared for.
The roll-out of video appointments has resulted in very positive feedback from patients and clinicians. This quote from a family member epitomises the success of the project: “This video call has enabled a very distressed relative to talk to his wife and reassure him that she was safe and well whilst in hospital – they were able to wave and kiss through the computer – although no money was saved for the carer this was a priceless moment which supports him whilst being isolated and not able to visit. Thank you!”
Personal feedback from clinicians demonstrates how Video Appointments improve care and efficiencies: “At the height of the COVID crisis it was vital that our clinicians could engage properly with their patients, and see them as well. As a division we have been providing our usual care standards, improving the uptake of appointments and losing less appointments through non-attendance. Patients have fed back to us that they find the system easy to use. We have maintained face-to-face presence for those in clinical need”, “Visionable has improved care by enabling patients with persistent pain to have appointments, and physical assessment to be done visually” and “It has significantly reduced DNA rates, resulting in an increase in patient facing activity and savings in clinician time”.
The NHS has seen an unprecedented increase in the use of digital solutions over a short period of time and. Southern Health is determined to keep that momentum going, to properly embed digital change across all services. There are three key areas (already well documented) that are the core focus:
- Ensuring clinicians and patients continue to embrace new ways of working post pandemic
- Having clinicians at the centre of digital transformation
- Continuing evaluation and reflection on what has worked and what has not worked
Visionable in Action – A Case Study from a Specialist Nurse
“The Parkinson’s team have always been open to new ways of working, so when the chance to be one of the teams to pilot video conferencing came up, we jumped at it.
Our journey began in August with some initial discussions and training on how video appointments could enhance our service. Then the big launch happened on 27th August with our first real patient.
I have to say that both the patient and I were very impressed with how easy it all was. In fact the patient didn’t even have to leave work, but was able to use a private room for our discussion using his laptop. The whole experience was much better than the usual phone call we would have had; there was an added quality to our meeting and it felt more personal because we could see each other.
Following this initial foray into the world of video appointment, I was keen to do more as I could see the benefits for both sides; neither of us had to travel anywhere, worrying we wouldn’t make it on time, or try to park in overcrowded car parks. We could still have a good dialogue and carers or partners could participate fully as well, as we were all “in the same room”, albeit virtually.
I now use every opportunity to promote video appointments and carry a handful of leaflets with me, giving them out to anyone who is interested to have a go. Several months into the project I am now using these appointments on a weekly basis in place of some of my planned telephone clinic appointments and also instead of some face-to-face clinic reviews.
At first, some people are a little apprehensive, but once I explain how easy it is, most are willing to have a go and feedback has been very positive from both patients, carers and staff.
Going forward, I can see many benefits for the Parkinson’s service such as an enhanced experience for the patient and the Health Care Professional (HCP); cost savings for both patient and the Trust in terms of reducing travel and parking expenses and also potential opportunities to provide support and education to patients and other HCPs remotely, such as at Multi-Disciplinary Team meetings.”
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