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Remote consultations- the new normal?

Topics: Building a solution

The Prime Minister’s historic speech last night gave us strict guidelines on social distancing. It’s important we respect this advice and reduce our contact with one another in order to avoid overloading the NHS further during the coronavirus pandemic.

By employing the right technology, we can ensure our health service can keep looking after us, with an added touch of creativity. We can keep our roads and train lines free of non-essential travel when we can carry on with our care pathways remotely, from the comfort of our own homes.

Supporting the NHS with this kind of new technology is our mission and shapes our culture as we look to help any way we can. With the recent changes to the healthcare climate, caused by the coronavirus epidemic, we’ve done our best to match the agility and pace of our NHS workforce.

In the past 10 days, we’ve built three entirely new products as a response to the increased supply and demand issues being faced by our healthcare system. We are also offering our Covid-19 toolkit without any of our licencing fees to any NHS Trust that needs it.

We’ve also seen a tremendous increase in the use of our current services. In the past four days alone our Broadcast message solution - in which Trusts can text their entire patient base en masse - was used to contact 162,000 patients across the nation to keep them informed and up to date of coronavirus-related advice.

To further build on the benefit of broadcast messaging, we decided to add to our solution by offering patients the ability to reply to these messages. We made this change because our partner Trusts reported the following findings across secondary care:

  • Increased fear of coming into a hospital setting leading to a spike in DNAs
  • Difficulty in offering patients the choice to use alternative services at scale
  • Difficulty connecting patients to video consultations

Communication between patients and hospitals has been a challenge for the NHS even prior to the pressure caused by the coronavirus. But now more than ever, efficient communication needs to be the focus of digital transformation in health and social care.

We originally started with the development of Broadcast messaging to streamline communication at scale. The feedback we’ve received initially is that patients have felt better informed of how their care might be changing and subsequently that has reduced some of the initial uncertainty people were feeling.

The next stage, enabling this communication to go both ways, will ensure a greater level of patient engagement. To achieve the best level of care, when being remote is the only option, we are asking patients what ‘remote’ should look like for them.

Where appropriate, by offering patients the choice of a video or a phone appointment, a large number of scheduled clinics can still go ahead, even with the new rules on social distancing. This relieves some of the pressure of otherwise backlogging the health services.

By allowing patients to reply to SMS communication sent by hospitals, we can quickly identify patients that prefer to be seen remotely. Using a simple SMS workflow, patients have the option of replying ‘remote’ which automatically flags to hospitals their preferred method of care.

When patients feel reassured that they can receive the same quality of care remotely as they would in-person, it will reduce the number of cancelled appointments and costly DNAs. In addition, by making remote consultations the ‘new normal’, even beyond these unprecedented times, more capacity will result. In this way, more patients will end up receiving care quicker and more effectively.

This is unquestionably a demanding and exciting time to work in health tech as the needs of the NHS for digital support have come to a pivot.

If you have any ideas on how digitising health services can help, we’d love for you to get in touch!