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The value of the virtual clinic

Dan Boddington, systems engineer at StarLeaf, discusses how patients and medical staff are benefiting from live digital diagnosis.

Appointment pain points and diagnosis downtime are serious inhibitors to quality healthcare. The need to cut waiting times and improve quality medical consultations is essential to relieve the pressure on an overworked healthcare service.

Traditional medical care models no longer cater adequately for patient needs today due to insufficient on-site facilities, a chronic lack of IT resources and the proverbial predicaments of unreliable public transport. Consequently, high rates of non-attendance at appointments result in rising costs on emergency services and potentially poor patient health outcomes.

When clinical staff are hampered by inefficiencies, how can technology dramatically improve doctor-to-patient communications?

The wider screen

The Health and Social Care Information Centre in England recently published data revealing that 1 in 50 patients (65,590 of 3.5 million) who missed an appointment failed to attend three or more further appointments within three months.

Clinicians are concerned for the welfare of those people who serially miss appointments because their health may continue to deteriorate and, consequently, they are potentially putting themselves at greater risk by non-attendance. In addition, estimates indicate that the cost of missed UK general practice appointments (GP community-based family medicine) can total over £150 million per year.

The debate over disruption to critical diagnosis and quality consultation has raged for many years.

Research has shown that conducting ‘virtual’ consultations enables medical staff to seamlessly conduct a diagnosis without the need for patients to actually be in the presence of the doctor. At the heart of a virtual clinic is secure video conferencing, instant messaging and smart meeting room systems that simplify communications complexity for a life-changing experience.

Benefits to using intuitive technology include limiting the patient’s travel to a hospital resulting in improved patient satisfaction, reduced stress levels and maximised clinician time.

Providing patient-centred video healthcare to communities offers enormous scope for national health services around the world to eliminate unnecessary repeat consultations, difficulties in logistic on-site attendance, delays in diagnosis and prescription orders.

For example, offering a patient with mobility issues the option to receive a virtual consultation at their local GP rather than travelling many miles to a distant specialist is now possible with quality video conferencing, video calling, instant messaging, and all operated securely by cloud-based solutions that are easy to use.

Last year’s ‘Beast from the East’ weather event in the UK was a classic case in point, when many doctors and nurses could not travel to hospitals to meet and discuss patient priorities. Through the use of video conferencing, isolated medical staff and support teams, including IT, were all able to operate remotely and join their colleagues by simply connecting online and meeting via intuitive video conferencing.

The use of superior picture and sound quality enables doctors to provide high levels of service and securely share medical documentation, such as scans, files and clinical information. When patient care requires urgent attention from specialists, video conferencing and instant messaging significantly help time sensitive incidents – accessed anywhere and from any device. In addition, the virtual training classroom enables medical lecturers to widen their audience and communicate in real-time and extend the value of their service to any part of the world.

On-site meeting room systems set up in clinics, hospitals and surgeries can also be installed for quality room video conferencing along with various audio and control options that seamlessly connect to other multiple trusts running a variety of different technologies – a compelling combination of flexibility, reliability and security. With integrated easy-to-use solutions, doctors and physicians are better enabled to serve more patients in one day of clinical practice and improve levels of consultation satisfaction. A good example is antenatal care, where conducting virtual appointments could save heavily pregnant women from making long, tiring trips to the hospital.

In touch with technology

Boosting health service capabilities improves the quality of lives and provides the opportunity to scale services and sustain patient relationships.

According to the World Health Organization, nearly 2 billion people across the world are expected to be over 60 years old by 2050, a figure that is more than triple what it was in the year 2000. With growing communities and an increasingly ageing population, virtual clinics offer a future where advanced video adds value and enhanced, on-premises prognosis offers more room for better patient care.