St Helen’s & Knowsley NHS Trust deploys telehealth and video consultation to multiple departments following successful stroke and drains pilot

Refero, the platform provider for collaboration across public sector boundaries, has announced that St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospital NHS Trust has invested in its solution, to provide patients with the latest telehealth and video consultation services across multiple departments. Patients, often suffering from long term chronic illnesses, will benefit from avoiding strenuous journeys to hospital and improved recovery time by video consultations with their clinicians.

Following a successful pilot over the past two years, with its Cancer Drains Outreach and Stroke Review Services, the Trust is extending the telehealth programme to benefit patients attending its Medicine for Older People Frailty Service; Speech and Language Therapy Service; Burns & Plastics, Breast Reconstruction Service and Gastroenterology, Liver Surveillance Service. Patients are digitally connected with the Trust’s clinicians to enable continual engagement via video consultation or messaging through a web portal, smartphone or tablet.

Since the introduction of Refero’s telehealth platform, with partner Cisco’s voice and video communication technology, the Trust has already seen DNA rates drop from around 25% to just 10% in its six-month stroke review service. Video consultation enables clinicians to easily demonstrate new exercises to their patients and see patients in their home environments, invaluable to the overall assessment of a stroke patient’s condition.

Rowan Pritchard Jones, medical director at St Helen and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust comments, “After a stroke, a patient will have their driver’s license taken away, so they become reliant on public transport or family and friends to bring them into hospital for speech therapy or review appointments. Often our patients will need to make a five hour return journey from home to the hospital. Connecting a patient via a video consultation is an invaluable way of reducing their travel time, putting less strain on their recovery and helps us to assess how they are coping in their home environment rather than after a strenuous and tiring journey into the hospital.”

For specialist cancer nurses of the Trust’s Drains Service, travelling time is greatly reduced, freeing up their time for preparing patients’ discharge and dramatically reducing travel costs and improving efficiencies. Previously, staff could travel up to six hours a day to review one patient’s drains and wounds.

Rowan Pritchard Jones says, “We are reaching the point where telehealth is becoming the norm rather than the novel. The huge successes of our pilots in the Stroke Review and Cancer Drains Outreach services have been witnessed by our staff in other departments, who now want to benefit from a telehealth approach.

Most importantly, it’s been the patient’s choice, whereby 100 percent of patients who’ve used video consultations so far, don’t want to revert to coming into the hospital for an outpatients’ appointment. Telehealth helps us to work smarter. We might get around 100 calls a day from patients worried about their wounds, but video consultations have helped to determine that 70-80 percent of the time, a hospital visit isn’t required. Dietitians looking after patients with oesophagus and stomach cancer are able to have meaningful discussions with their patients at home and via video are able to look through their kitchen cupboards with them.”

Christine Walters, Director of Informatics at St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust (STHK), says, “Our successes in the uptake of telehealth to date have been strengthened by our passionate team of staff at STHK who embrace technology and see the opportunities and benefits it brings to the care of our patients. We are working closely with Refero and Cisco in our telehealth programme to extend the service to departments throughout the Trust and beyond into the community with provision for mental health services in the future.”

Dan Worman, CEO of Refero, says, “In an age where people with chronic ill-health are increasingly being cared for in the community, being able to easily communicate digitally with this population is both imperative and lifesaving. STHK is an outstanding example of how healthcare organisations are moving beyond the realms of teleconsultation, to using modern technology to manage patients in the best way. By providing a communication channel between clinicians and patients, not only will the patient’s needs be met quicker and more efficiently, STHK will most importantly, be able to provide the best care possible for its patients.”

Tom Kneen, Head of Academic, Research & Technology Partnerships, CTO Office, Cisco, says, “Teleconsultation isn’t just about providing video assessments for patients, it can open the door to a wider service for healthcare providers to communicate digitally with their patients. Using Cisco technology, the Refero platform enables patients and Trust staff to connect quickly and easily without being in the same room. The versatility of telehealth ensures Trust staff can easily access the services from a number of different devices, whether through a web portal, smartphone or tablet.”

Refero’s telehealth solution integrates with the Trust’s existing Patient Appointment System (PAS) to provide a platform of collaboration for health and social service providers via video and voice technology to support the continual engagement between a patient and the clinician.