Head of Healthcare UK, Pexip
The use of secure video technology in the field gives NHS front line staff instant, virtual access to clinical specialists. This can reduce admissions to hospitals and improve outcomes for patients.
During the pandemic, many of us became used to using video conferencing technology on a regular basis. In lockdown, talking to people via our computer screens was an important way to keep in touch with friends and family, or hold office meetings with colleagues.
For the NHS, however, this type of digital innovation offers more than just a convenient method of connecting people. It could have revolutionary benefits for patients and clinicians alike.
“Video conferencing tech gives staff the opportunity to virtualise any clinical interaction,” explains Tom Jones, Head of Healthcare UK at communication platform, Pexip. “For example, if you’re a first responder using wearable tech — be it chest-mounted or a pair of glasses — you can have access to the right clinical specialists while the patient is still in the field or in an ambulance.”
Benefits for patients and NHS clinicians
Jones gives examples of an elderly patient who may have broken a bone after a fall, or a person who has suffered burns in a road traffic accident. “Getting them to hospital for assessment may be traumatic and time-consuming,” he says. “In the current climate, it could also increase their risk of infection. It would be better if a first responder, who has virtual access to a clinical specialist, could triage the patient in the field so they can be taken directly to the right unit for treatment.
“That’s a big benefit for the patient and the patient’s family, who don’t have to wait around in hospital while they are assessed. It’s also a plus from the hospital’s perspective because it reduces admissions and frees up precious resources.”
Clinicians from all over the country can dial in, which gives people easier access to specialist care.
It’s useful in other healthcare settings too. For instance, GPs can use video tech to make home consultations easier. “People can now have a video consultation in their lunch break via their handheld device,” he says. “There is no need for them to take half a day off to sit in a waiting room. It doesn’t replace the need for face-to-face appointments, but a lot of preparatory and follow-up appointments can be made virtually to reduce the burden on the NHS.”
Jones also knows of at least one NHS Trust that has created a secure virtual consultation room in a hospital for patients to use. “Clinicians from all over the country can dial in, which gives people easier access to specialist care,” he says. “So the possibilities are exciting.”
Secure, accessible and reliable technology
Video tech has been available for some time in clinical settings; yet it’s only now that more healthcare staff are seeing it in action. “I think there may have been a hesitancy about adopting this type of technology in the past because some clinicians were worried about the security/privacy aspect,” he says. “But now there’s a realisation that it is secure, easy to use and — with the availability of 4G and 5G networks — very reliable.”
It’s compatible with existing systems and platforms, too, so users don’t have to invest in new equipment; plus it’s customisable and can fit in easily with a clinician’s workflow. “If they prefer to, they can join a call with one touch of a button or with a voice command,” says Jones. “When clinicians see it and use it, their reaction is usually: ‘How did we not know this was available? It’s exactly what we have been looking for.’”