|27th July 2018
When gastroenterology registrar Dr Bahman Nedjat-Shokouhi attended to a patient who had spent three months waiting for an outpatient appointment and worrying about a potential cancer diagnosis, he questioned how that worry could have been avoided.
Realising the importance of innovation in the NHS, he saw how technology could improve early specialist care for patients and help resource a heavily burdened NHS.
Fast forward to 2018 and he has turned his idea into Medefer, an advanced IT platform that provides two models of care – the virtual triage (electronic advice and guidance) and the virtual hospital, which delivers a consultant-led specialist outpatient service.
Blue Latitude Health speaks to Dr Kruti Patel, Clinical Operations Manager at Medefer (pictured left) to find out how the company has reduced the time spent waiting for consultants from weeks to an average of 5.5 hours, increasing satisfaction for both healthcare professionals and their patients.
KP: We started off with a virtual advice and guidance service, which enables a specialist consultant to give GPs detailed advice and a management plan. While this provides easy access to a consultant, the problem we found is this significantly increased GP workload, with GPs often advised to arrange tests and manage conditions out of their scope.
The virtual hospital service was created in response to this increased workload. The consultant triages the GP referral and decides if the GP requires simple advice, if the patient needs a clinic appointment or if the patient needs tests. The consultant then arranges the tests using our platform and reviews the results virtually. As a result, a patient can receive a diagnosis without waiting several weeks to be seen at the hospital. If a hospital appointment is required, our virtual hospital service allows our consultants to arrange any tests the patient needs before their appointment, for example, basic bloods or a camera test.
By the time the patient gets to their hospital appointment, we’ve already sent the test results to the clinic. This makes that initial appointment with the consultant more meaningful and productive. The virtual hospital service currently specialises in gastroenterology and we have received a lot of interest from other areas. We have consultants specialising in cardiology, endocrine, ENT, gynaecology, haematology, neurology, respiratory, orthopaedics, rheumatology, and urology.
KP: Waiting lists can be anything from three to four months, but with Medefer, the consultants triage the GP referral within 5.5 hours.
The triage of a GP referral, advice given, tests being carried out, conversations with our registrars, and consultants writing a management plan for the GP once they receive the results, can usually take under seven weeks. It’s a much faster service and it does everything an outpatient clinic does. Within the virtual hospital, we’ve also created another platform where the GP can see exactly where their patient is in our medical pathway.
KP: Historically, challenges for the GP involve trying to attain quick advice and getting a hold of the on-call or surgical registrar. There was no reliable way of getting a hold of them and when you eventually did get to discuss the case, their default solution would often be to refer the patient to a hospital. GPs need to know how quickly they will receive guidance and feel assured that the management plan provided by the consultant is not outside their capability.
Our advanced IT platform produces a detailed report, including consultant response times, referral outcomes and provisional diagnosis. GPs can also use the information provided to help them in the future if they come across a similar problem.
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