Addressing Unmet Care Needs with Backlog Busters
A new report published by the Health Foundation has shown that there were 4.7 million fewer people referred for routine hospital care between January and August 2020, compared to the same period in 2019. It is important that NHS and health policymakers prepare for this ‘hidden backlog’ of unmet need while also treating the 4.2 million people currently waiting for routine elective care.
One of the authors pointed out that while “the NHS has made significant progress towards fully reopening services after the first peak of the pandemic, there is still a potentially huge hidden backlog“ and “radical interventions will be needed to avoid prolonged delays for those currently waiting”.
So how can we beat the backlog without jeopardising national COVID-19 efforts? We believe the answer lies in three areas; shared resources in radiology, moving towards a virtual model, and connecting the dots in electronic health records.
Shared resources in radiology
Radiology departments play an essential role in the diagnostic process and as a result operate at the intersection of a vast array of healthcare services. This means they need to work faster and smarter. However, a consequence of fewer radiologists and growing demands during the pandemic has left services stretched beyond capacity, resulting in reporting delays, in some cases impacting cancer diagnosis.
With social distancing measures in place and a greater emphasis on remote working, radiologists need to be able to access reports, even when they are away from the original scan site.
This is why delivering an integrated approach to information-sharing within and between different NHS services is at the heart of our mission. Radiology software applications such as Cris Connect, are designed to help disparate services have the same access to the same centralised patient record at all times. This helps clinicians to make faster and better-informed decisions and enables patients to move more seamlessly between services.
Moving towards a virtual model
NHS services have worked incredibly hard to deliver the same in-person experience for patients through virtual mediums. Tools such as electronic patient communication platforms, video consultations, and remote assessments have shifted care away from the physical to the virtual and we can now understand how to receive and deliver effective care remotely.
The transition to virtual appointments was happening before COVID-19, but the process has been vastly sped up, and while there is some inconsistency most Trusts are fully or partially prepared to deliver remote services. For example, Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust has shifted 90% of outpatient appointments away from face to face and has conducted 6,000 meetings virtually since February 2020.
To help equip our customers with the right tools, we launched new functions within both Cris and eConsent to make the transition to a virtual model more seamless, including a Digital signature feature for remote consent to treatment and Patient Attend, which enables radiology departments to implement social distancing measures in line with COVID-19 guidelines.
Connecting the dots in electronic health records
It is important that clinicians have quick access to patient records to ensure swift diagnosis and to create appropriate treatment plans. However, specialities can often exist in medical silos, despite the fact they share comparable features. These disparate systems are not conducive for continuity of care and cannot adequately support the needs of multi-disciplinary teams (MDT) especially during a crisis.
To address the challenges associated with fragmented care and the increasing pressure to deliver elective services, it’s important that we can create singular electronic patient records, which can delivered through our Stratus platform.
Stratus is a purpose developed shared care record which enables complete patient records to be accessed at the point of care. Digitising paper records, including the categorisation and indexation of documents, minimises the need for clinicians to scroll through large scanned ‘images’ in search of relevant medical history. Furthermore, it provides clinicians with a consolidated, easy to consume view that ensures they are fully informed when meeting with patients, meaning consultation time can be used more efficiently.