Health Boards To Trial Online Appointments For The Elderly

Hospital Consultations With Elderly Patients May Be Carried Out Online If A Pilot Scheme Is Successful

26.09.2014

Four NHS trusts across England and Wales are to trial a new initiative that will see elderly patients offered online consultations with hospital doctors instead of having to travel to see them in person.

The Future Hospital Programme is being run by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and involves Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board; Mid Yorkshire Hospitals; the Royal Blackburn Hospital; and Worthing Hospital.

During the pilot, patients will be invited to visit their local doctor's surgery, where they will be set up to participate in a live video link with the relevant consultant. It is hoped that if the experiment is successful, it could be rolled out to include elderly people at home too.

This would not only avoid potentially frail patients having to make sometimes long journeys to hospitals, but would also free up some of the ambulances that are often required to take them to appointments.

RCP spokesperson Dr Mark Temple said: "The evaluation of new ways of delivering healthcare at these sites is important for patients, carers and healthcare staff, as the results will be shared widely to help enhance patient care in the NHS."

This is just one of a number of ways in which health services are making better use of technology to improve patient outcomes lately. Earlier this month, research published in the journal BMJ Quality & Safety found that death rates decreased at hospitals that had started to use computers to keep track of indicators such as blood pressure, oxygen levels and pulse rates.

Telemedicine is also becoming an important way of delivering healthcare. However, experts have warned it is important to ensure the potential pitfalls do not result in dangers to patients.

For example, elderly people with sensory impairments may not hear doctors' comments and might be too embarrassed to say so.

Furthermore, if the Future Hospital Programme were to be rolled out into patients' homes, the issue of many older people not having internet access would also need to be addressed.

Expert Opinion
The use of technology within the medical profession is increasing and this is yet another of example of it being put to good use to improve the control patients have over their care and how they access the treatment they require. Should the trial prove successful among elderly patients and medical professionals it should be rolled out across the UK to ensure care is delivered in the same way across the national health service.

“However, it is vital these schemes are implemented correctly and both patients and medical staff are comfortable with utilising the new treatment delivery method, to ensure patients can access high standards of care at all times. All too often we have seen the devastating impact poor-quality care can have on patients, particularly vulnerable individuals, and it is crucial the new online appointments are implemented in a way that benefits all elderly patients.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner