Video Consultations in Secondary Care

Outpatient video consultations can deliver a range of benefits to patients and the NHS, according to a research report by Edge Health published today 14 September 2021.

The report reviews 3 million video consultations over a year in one of the fastest roll-outs of a single technology in the NHS’s history. This took place in a matter of weeks across 171 NHS hospital trusts in England, involving more than 69,000 consultants and clinicians using a single NHS supported video platform.
 
Video consultations with patients increased from around 5,000 a month in March 2020 to 340,000 a month a year later in a wide range of areas, including mental health, orthopaedics, paediatrics, physiotherapy, neurology, maternity and reproductive medicine, respiratory, diabetes, ophthalmology and oncology.
 
“Not only did clinicians and hospital services adopt the technology at an impressive pace, but our research also found them using it in innovative ways, including in areas such as physiotherapy and emergency eye care”, stated Director at Edge Health George Bachelor, who led the research. 
 
The report highlights the benefits of video consultations to patients – saving over the year a total of 4.64 million hours (530 years) inpatient travel and in-hospital waiting times and £40m in travel costs and parking charges. As a result, 3 million lost work hours were avoided saving the overall economy £108m in lost productivity. The report estimates fewer journeys to the hospital resulted in 14,200 tonnes of avoided greenhouse gas emissions, and 11 million fewer “single-use” PPE items, such as face masks, were consumed, saving the NHS over £1.1 million. The analysis also found that 1,730 hospital-acquired infections were avoided (not including COVID-19 infections) due to fewer visits to hospital sites. 
 
Over 76% of clinicians were “positive” or “very positive” about video consultations with patients, 77% finding the national video platform “easy to use”. Research conducted earlier this year by Oxford University for NHS Scotland has also shown very high patient satisfaction rates with NHS video consultations.
 
Edge Health’s research also found in its regional analysis high levels of usage across a range of geographies suggesting broad patient appeal in both rural and urban areas.
 
“The pace and scale of video consultation adoption across NHS secondary care, as articulated in this report, is one example of this impactful transformation that began in March 2020 and continues today”, states David Probert, CEO at University College London, in a foreword to the research report.
 
“I have been amazed by the hard work and commitment of NHS staff across the country who have found new and innovative ways to quietly deliver and improve patient care in the most extraordinary circumstances. 
 
“The challenge for NHS England and NHS Improvement is now to help trusts and systems raise patient awareness of video consultations as an option to them when they access the NHS.  
 
“Only by showing patients the benefits of video consultations and backing this up with the necessary support to access care in this way will we be able to safeguard the progress made and realise further opportunities in how video technology can improve patient care”, added David Probert.
    
Dr Faisil Sethi, Executive Medical Director, Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust, said, “We led the way in adopting this technology, and we will continue to lead promoting its use to deliver great NHS care for our patients. In our varied geography, our service users, patients and clinicians appreciate the benefits, flexibility and convenience of video consultations. 
 
“Whilst video consultations don’t replace face-to-face care where this is needed, they are enabling care that is more tailored to the needs of the people we care for in Dorset”, added Dr Sethi.

(includes regional data)

Authors

Alice Castrucci

Senior Analyst

Catriona Mackay

Analyst