Beyond the realms of teleconsultation – opening up new communication channels for patients
By Dan Worman, CEO of Refero
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.
In the early stages of Refero’s journey, our HealthConnect service gave healthcare providers the opportunity to offer patients a virtual appointment via a ‘click on link’ which connected the patient and clinician together for a video consultation. This approach, now adopted by other video consultation providers, worked well but has its limitations, primarily it doesn’t allow for any on-going engagement between the clinician and patient. The consultation is a one-time only experience and gives no opportunity for any ongoing engagement with the patient.
To address this, Refero evolved its offering to provide a platform of collaboration for health and social service providers via video and voice technology to support the continual engagement between a patient and the clinician.
Our patient verification profile driven approach also ensures we meet the defined standards and assurance required by NHS England’s DPS Framework for online consultations, whereby we can ensure verification of patients using Refero’s platform accessed online through a web portal, smartphone or tablet application.
We connect the patient to the clinical or social care practitioner digitally, whether via a video consultation or messaging system for appointment notification, appointment reminders and even consultation follow ups by the clinician.
The integration of Refero’s platform with the providers’ existing systems is crucial to success and provides a simple way of initiating digital engagement with a patient through their existing booking system. In addition, the platform can work as a stand-alone system if required. The process takes the following steps in an outpatients’ clinic:
- The patient is booked into a virtual clinic via the Patient Administration (PAS) or Electronic Patient Record (EPR) system
- The Refero platform picks up the virtual appointment and sends out the registration instructions to the patient
- Instructions will be sent to the patient to creating a password and access the service
- Registration is then complete
These simple steps enable patient verification through the existing PAS or EPR and facilitate communication between the patient and the clinician on an ongoing and uncomplicated basis. DNA rates are also significantly reduced as reminders to the patient help to avoid anyone forgetting their appointment. Any follow ups to consultations can also be managed via the messaging system to help avoid any unnecessary visits to the hospital or GP by the patient.
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. A great example of this approach working effectively is for a group of diabetics who are connected digitally to a dedicated team, whether consultants, admin staff, specialist nurses and GP’s. Patients may message into the team with vital questions on taking their insulin and so on. Whatever the enquiry, it would be triaged to the most appropriate member of the clinical to deal with the question quickly, either by setting up a teleconsultation or by digitally sending a message to the patient.
We are moving beyond the realms of teleconsultation to the ability to use modern technology to manage patients in the best way. By providing a communication channel between healthcare providers and patients, not only will the patient’s needs be met quicker and more efficiently, the healthcare provider will most importantly, be able to provide the best care possible for its patients.