NHS trusts carry out, on average, more than 340 visits a day to elderly patient homes and care homes, with medical staff spending significant time travelling to and from these appointments.
The findings come from a freedom of information (FOI) request sent to all NHS trusts in England in order to ascertain how many of these external visits were made on an average day.
We’ve seen improved workflows, operational efficiency gains, and better patient outcomes when video conferencing technology is used to support clinical work
Of the 157 questioned, five were able to provide meaningful statistics, yet the data revealed an average of more than 126,000 home visits annually from each trust – indicating that this is an area the NHS is committing significant resource to.
With large trust catchment areas necessitating lengthy journeys for NHS staff to visit elderly patients in their own homes and nursing homes, IT specialist Imerja, which carried out the FOI request, is calling on the NHS to take a closer look at how appropriate use of technology can help to reduce travelling time and deliver better patient care.
High-definition audio and video conferencing can now enable clinicians to carry out many appointments and consultations remotely, even for technically-challenging assessments such as stroke care, neurology, renal dialysis, and dysphagia.
Ian Jackson, managing director at Imerja, said: “The NHS is rightly focused on patient outcomes, but medical staff cannot contribute to patient care when they are travelling.
A significant majority of these 340 daily appointments could potentially be carried out remotely using high-definition video conferencing, allowing patients to be assessed and treated without clinicians needing to physically be present.
“In hospitals and care homes we’ve worked with to date we’ve seen improved workflows, operational efficiency gains, and better patient outcomes when video conferencing technology is used to support clinical work.
“Not only does this benefit the NHS, but patients stand to benefit too. More-immediate access to professional consultation and assessment – given clinicians can be available almost ‘on demand’ – will enable earlier diagnosis and treatment so that a patient’s condition is less likely to deteriorate while waiting for a home visit.
NHS trusts have an opportunity to choose a future-proofed strategy to support continued high-quality service delivery and reduce budgetary pressures by turning to technology
“With an aging population, the need for care in the home isn’t going to reduce in the years to come, and under the current system the number of these visits is only going to increase.
“NHS trusts have an opportunity to choose a future-proofed strategy to support continued high-quality service delivery and reduce budgetary pressures by turning to technology.”
As part of the FOI request, all 157 NHS trusts in England were asked how many external appointments they carried out annually at elderly patients’ homes or nursing homes.
The five trusts that responded carried out a total of 557,469 visits to elderly people in their homes and 75,555 visits to patients in nursing homes.
Of those five trusts, Hartlepool saw the most visits – 220,052 to people in their homes and 34,964 to nursing homes.