St Helen’s & Knowsley NHS deploys telehealth and video consultation

Rollout of Refero solution to multiple departments following successful stroke and drains pilot

St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospital NHS Trust has invested in a Refero solution aimed at providing patients with the latest telehealth and video consultation services across multiple departments.

Patients, often suffering from long-term chronic illnesses, will now be able to avoid strenuous journeys to hospital and improved recovery time through the introduction of video consultations with their clinicians.

Following a successful pilot over the past two years with its cancer drains outreach and stroke review services, the trust is extending the telehealth programme to benefit patients attending its medicine for older people frailty service; speech and language therapy service; burns and plastics, breast reconstruction service and gastroenterology, liver surveillance service.

Patients are digitally connected with the trust’s clinicians to enable continual engagement via video consultation or messaging through a web portal, smartphone or tablet.

Since the introduction of Refero’s telehealth platform, with partner Cisco’s voice and video communication technology, the trust has already seen DNA rates drop from around 25% to just 10% in its six-month stroke review service.

Video consultation enables clinicians to easily demonstrate new exercises to their patients and see patients in their home environments, invaluable to the overall assessment of a stroke patient’s condition.

We are reaching the point where telehealth is becoming the norm rather than the novel

Rowan Pritchard Jones, medical director at the trust, said: “After a stroke a patient will have their driver’s license taken away, so they become reliant on public transport or family and friends to bring them into hospital for speech therapy or review appointments.

“Often our patients will need to make a five-hour return journey from home to the hospital.

“Connecting a patient via a video consultation is an invaluable way of reducing their travel time, putting less strain on their recovery, and helps us to assess how they are coping in their home environment rather than after a strenuous and tiring journey into the hospital.”

For specialist cancer nurses of the trust’s drains service, travel time is greatly reduced, freeing up their time for preparing patients’ discharge and dramatically reducing travel costs and improving efficiencies.

Previously, staff could travel up to six hours a day to review one patient’s drains and wounds.

Pritchard Jones said: “We are reaching the point where telehealth is becoming the norm rather than the novel.

In an age where people with chronic ill health are increasingly being cared for in the community, being able to easily communicate digitally with this population is both imperative and lifesaving

“The huge successes of our pilots in the stroke review and cancer drains outreach services have been witnessed by our staff in other departments, who now want to benefit from a telehealth approach.

“Most importantly, though, it’s been the patient’s choice, whereby 100% of patients who’ve used video consultations so far, don’t want to revert to coming into the hospital for an outpatient appointment.

“Telehealth helps us to work smarter. We might get around 100 calls a day from patients worried about their wounds, but video consultations have helped to determine that 70-80% of the time, a hospital visit isn’t required.

“And dietitians looking after patients with oesophagus and stomach cancer are able to have meaningful discussions with their patients at home and via video are able to look through their kitchen cupboards with them.”

Dan Worman, chief executive of Refero, adds: “In an age where people with chronic ill health are increasingly being cared for in the community, being able to easily communicate digitally with this population is both imperative and lifesaving. /

“St Helen’s and Knowsley is an outstanding example of how healthcare organisations are moving beyond the realms of teleconsultation to using modern technology to manage patients in the best way.

Teleconsultation isn’t just about providing video assessments for patients; it can open the door to a wider service for healthcare providers to communicate digitally with their patients

“By providing a communication channel between clinicians and patients, not only will patients’ needs be met quicker and more efficiently, the trust will, most importantly, be able to provide the best care possible for its patients.”

And Tom Kneen, head of academic, research and technology partnerships at Cisco, said: “Teleconsultation isn’t just about providing video assessments for patients; it can open the door to a wider service for healthcare providers to communicate digitally with their patients.

“Using Cisco technology, the Refero platform enables patients and trust staff to connect quickly and easily without being in the same room.

“The versatility of telehealth ensures staff can easily access the services from a number of different devices, whether through a web portal, smartphone or tablet.”

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