This question is not as simple as it was before, with many changes throughout the world over the past decade; what was normal is no longer normal. It’s come through the rise of choice.
People’s wants and needs are now met with a wide variety of options so they can choose what they prefer, meaning it’s vital to provide personalisation and ensure great user experience. This choice can be made on many different levels, from executives to receptionists, not just with patients.
In addition to this, the NHS waiting list has continued to grow as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and now there is a large backlog that needs tackling. The waiting list is estimated at an all-time high of six million, and Sajid Javid warned that this could increase to 14 million if no plan is implemented. It’s clear that the NHS can’t suddenly increase outputs overnight, but by reducing the bottlenecks we can speed up implementation. One of the biggest bottlenecks is the availability of appointments available due to limited clinical rooms and clinicians’ availability .
However, the number of consultations can be increased by repurposing real estate through the use of booths dedicated for virtual consultations. This frees up clinical rooms for more consultations and means consultants can increase the number of consultations per day due to saved time conducting them virtually. Also, NHS England targets for 25% of clinical appointments to be carried out virtually, by phone or video, during 2022.
Covid accelerated the implementation of virtual consultations within healthcare, and it’s opened a new element of choice for both patients and consultants. It raises the question whether a clinic should be done face to face or virtually, this is a choice for both the consultant and patient. Firstly, the consultant must choose what is the most productive method and one that would provide all the data needed, whilst ensuring patient satisfaction. The patient preference is also important, with some preferring the options of staying at home to save time, money, and carbon emissions, whilst others prefer a face-to-face meeting.
Let’s compare clinical rooms with private booths and find out the best use case for each.
Firstly, clinical rooms are dedicated for face-to-face consultations, they are not appropriate for video of phone consultations.
Using clinical rooms for virtual consultations is an inappropriate use of precious real estate within hospitals as the room could be used for someone who does require a face-to-face clinic, otherwise a large room is being used by one person who could be using a space 85% smaller. Also, the room is not designed for video communications and can cause issues with lighting and audio, meaning patients can’t see or hear consultants properly.
Clinical rooms can also cause concern about privacy and confidentiality if a patient can see and hear other staff in the background, whilst in a consultation.
Clinical rooms are designed for face-to-face consultations with patients that need to be seen physically to achieve the desired outcome of the clinic. This requires space for movement and use of instruments, for example many MSK clinics may need this additional space to allow for physiotherapy demonstrations.
Booths are specifically designed for virtual consultations either via phone or video. This could be because of patient preference to do the consultation virtually, or because the consultant doesn’t think seeing the patient physically will provide any benefit to the consultation. If there is no benefit from a face-to-face consultation then it may be better to go virtual to save time, for patients and consultants, as well as travel costs and the resulting pollution.
The types of clinics which can be done virtually include things such as long-term health conditions, CAMHS and other areas of PIFU, where it’s a check-up as opposed to a critical consultation that requires a face-to-face visit.
To wrap up
Choosing the appropriate location for clinics comes down to what the most productive and relevant method is to perform the clinic, as well as considering the patient’s preference. If a face-to-face option is chosen, a clinical room must be used, if a virtual consultation is chosen, an individual booth, such as the Consult Plus, is recommended.
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