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Innovative telemedicine helps patients get expert care quicker

27 November

A new app is connecting clinical experts at the Royal Bournemouth and Christchurch hospitals (RBCH) with GPs and their patients, often while they’re sat together in the consultation room.

Consultant Connect allows GPs to get expert advice and guidance in real time, instead of writing to the consultant and waiting days for a response or sending the patient to hospital.

So far, 27 local GP practices and 11 specialties at RBCH have joined the trial Bournemouth Consultant Connect community.

Dr Tristan Richardson, Consultant Endocrinologist at RBCH, has helped pioneer the use of the app and hopes it will be extended and implemented in 2020. He said: “Before Consultant Connect, patients would have to wait for their GP surgery to write to my secretary for advice and the whole process could take around 3-4 weeks.

“Now that advice can take place in real time and as a result it is helping avoid some admissions and outpatient appointments.”

By helping bridge primary and secondary care, Consultant Connect is seen as a vital tool to support triage and referral if properly integrated with existing services. It also helps reduce unnecessary hospital referrals and admission and provides a better patient experience.

Dr Richardson said there was some initial reluctance among consultants to take part because of anticipated capacity issues, but he said the time taken to answer calls was minimal.

In fact, data shows the average call duration to be about 4-5 minutes with potentially 2-3 calls maximum per consultant per week. Photographs can be sent securely and if an admission or referral is the outcome, the GP arranges this as normal following the call.

He added: “Some GPs are worried about asking what they think might be a silly question or taking up consultant time, but, in fact, I’d rather be disturbed to save a patient being referred when they don’t need to be. It has so many benefits.”

To ensure proper data governance, recordings are kept for seven years, clinicians’ contact details are never disclosed and GPs record the conversation in patient records.

RBCH specialities that are currently involved include cardiology, diabetes, diabetic foot clinic, endocrinology, older person’s medicine (frailty), gastroenterology, renal medicine, rheumatology, respiratory and surgical ambulatory emergency care. Poole specialities include elderly care, rheumatology and neurology.


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