Local patients are being given the opportunity to have appointments via video consultations thanks to a new project launched at Surrey and Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust (SASH).
SASH is one of the first trusts in the country to offer video consultations as part of a national trial which tests whether the technology could give patients more control over their care, allowing them to more easily fit routine appointments and check-ups around their day-to-day lives.
The platform, which has been used extensively in Australia and NHS Highlands in Scotland, allows patients to speak to their consultant via video link using a computer, tablet or smart phone.
Eileen Smith from Surrey was one of the first patients to take up the opportunity. She said: “The video appointment system was brilliant, it was easy and felt relaxed, had no problems and the viewing and the audio were clear. Next time I will use my tablet, I would recommend that you set this up for everyone to use as it is so much better than trying to get to the hospital, please, please make this work, it worked for me and I can see the benefits for medical professionals as well. As the saying goes, best thing since sliced bread… thank you.”
Initially the appointments will be offered to patients seeing certain consultants or therapists for clinics in diabetes, gynaecology, dental, surgical pre-assessment, paediatrics, pain, rheumatology, urology and speech and language therapy. Any patients who have been identified by their doctor or nurse as someone who may be suitable for this type of virtual appointment can choose whether they wish to attend their clinic appointment in person or try out the online video consultation.
Eleanor Brewer, service manager said: “We recognise that the traditional face to face hospital appointment isn’t always convenient for patients due to time and travel constraints and we know that some patients currently have to attend a number of different appointments, which can be really disruptive to their everyday lives. This platform makes it possible to have a convenient video consultation from home or in their work place rather than having to travel in to the hospital, which can take hours out of a patient’s day. This will allow patients to fit appointments and check-ups around their day-to-day lives more easily and feedback shows that some people find this more convenient and a better experience.”
Dr Griffith, consultant rheumatologist who has been using the platform to conduct video consultations since September stated “Patients have rated the process of booking and joining the call as either good or very good and they tell us that they have been able to communicate everything they need to with me. Patients report saving up to three hours travelling and by conducting appointments by video it reduces congestion in our car parks and waiting areas. Overall patient and doctor satisfaction has been good and every patient I have seen by video so far have been happy to conduct future appointments in this way.”
The virtual appointments are part of SASH and the national NHS’ long term plan to make better use of modern technology to improve care for patients.