NHS trust works with virtual outpatient service provider to reduce need for outpatient services by 47 percent
Medefer, a CQC-registered provider of specialist virtual outpatient services to NHS patients throughout the UK, has worked with the Isle of Wight NHS Trust to significantly speed up the triaging process for patients and clinicians alike through remote triaging technology.
By working with Medefer and using its virtual capabilities, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust is transforming its patient waiting list and backlog.
Dr Bahman Nedjat-Shokouhi, CEO and Founder of Medefer, told AT Today: “The NHS backlog is currently sitting at 6.2 million, and this is expected to continue increasing. It is vital that health systems find new ways to tackle this issue – and this requires us to make the most of digital transformation’s potential to improve the way healthcare is delivered.”
Prior to working with Medefer, the Isle of Wight NHS Trust had 3,000 patients waiting for an appointment with a further 27,000 patients forecasted to be added to the list over the next year across all clinical specialties. The issue was the bottleneck between GP appointment to referral appointment with some of their gastro patients waiting over 50 weeks to be seen by a specialist.
To address these challenges, the trust’s immediate priority was to identify a solution to clinically assess and mitigate the risk for the backlog of patients awaiting an outpatient appointment, and, where safe, discharge patients to primary care.
It selected Medefer’s virtual outpatient service. The solution allowed for the pooling or clinical resources, and the utilisation of both community and hospital services in the most beneficial and efficient way for patients.
Most notably, the partnership allowed for clinicians from hospitals with shorter waiting times to be consulted on patient cases and the triaging of patients with more urgent symptoms onto a two-week waiting list. This is particularly useful in remote areas like the Isle of Wight where there are more patients per clinician available at times.
Since incorporating the virtual triaging system, the NHS trust has reduced the need for patients to be seen by outpatient services by 47 percent, freeing up much-needed capacity for patients most in need of face-to-face appointments.
Furthermore, within just nine days, Medefer freed up the equivalent of six consultants for a whole month over their three gastro virtual hospitals. This equates to 100 clinics’ worth of patients and 13,000 hours’ worth of patient time.
Now, the trust has an average new referral triage time of 35 hours from referral. Even at the peak of managing the backlog during the pandemic, the longest time to triage was 11 working days.
Of the 75 patients triaged to a two-week waiting list, seven were diagnosed with cancer.
Dr Bahman Nedjat-Shokouhi, continued to explain to AT Today: “Remote, virtual technology platforms, like Medefer, are here to stay. We need to use our clinical workforce wisely.
“Medefer’s technology increases the effective clinical workforce capacity by almost three-fold, removing inefficiencies and streamlining pathways. By enabling specialists to work from any device, anytime and anywhere, our technology also means that there is more clinical time available to the NHS than would otherwise have been possible.
“Furthermore, by removing the traditional geographic boundaries, our technology removes health-inequalities across communities, improving access to care for every patient, no matter where they are.”
Medefer was founded in 2013 by Dr Nedjat-Shokouhi who was determined to update the “somewhat outdated” referral pathway and reduce the amount of time patients waited for outpatient appointment or results, an issue that was exacerbated by covid.
By virtually triaging patients to assess their need for outpatient services, NHS trusts can keep people out of hospital where needed and accelerate others through to prioritised treatment for conditions such as cancer.
The Isle of Wight NHS Trust is not the only NHS trust to use virtual technology to effectively and efficiently treat patients.
Frimley Health NHS Foundation Trust and Berkshire Healthcare NHS Foundation Trust are now providing acute hospital care in patients’ homes seven days a week via an expansion to their Hospital @ Home virtual ward service.
Hospital @ Home enables the two trusts’ healthcare professionals to perform therapy assessments and prescribe suitable assistive technology solutions to patients quickly and easily.
A recent Frimley Health Hospital @ Home survey showed that 100 percent of patients would recommend the service and would rather be treated at home than admitted to hospital for future episodes of care.