The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre NHS Foundation Trust is piloting a new telehealth system allowing cancer patients to have appointments with nurses from the comfort of their own homes.
The Telehealth Clinic has been trialled with a small group consisting of six patients in Merseyside for roughly a year, and allows specialist nurses to carry out basic patient health assessments via video call.
The system also allows patients to ask the nurse any questions they have and arrange any necessary follow-up appointments without having to attend clinic in person.
Any medication that is required is sent to patients using Blood Bikes (motorcycles used to courier blood and medical supplies) that operate out of The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre in Wirral.
The conferencing technology being used is provided by iKonsult and was developed with help from Professor Michael Brada (pictured) from Clatterbridge, a consultant in clinical oncology.
He said: “I have long been interested in making life easier for people who travel either short or long distances and then have to sit and wait in clinics, sometimes taking time off work or requiring their family to do so. This is a way of trying to make life easier for them.
“We want to deliver care that is close to patients and this is the ultimate way to do that.”
All of the patients currently using the Telehealth Clinic are being treated for ‘stable’ forms of cancer using oral treatments.
A trust spokesperson told Digital Health News that it offered the trial to 42 patients. The suitability of telehealth for their individual needs was considered by both clinical staff and the patients themselves, before a decision was made on whether or not they should take part. They added that patient choice was crucial in the decision, as were their individual needs.
Sarah Cubbin, a clinical nurse specialist from Macmillan Cancer Support who is using the technology with patients, said in a statement: “There are strict guidelines for who is allowed to take part and we have been very careful to ensure suitability.
“It isn’t the right approach for everyone; some people actually want to attend face-to-face appointments. Others like the system as it allows them to keep in touch, ensure their needs are being met but they can avoid travel and possible waiting times.”
Patients are still required to attend the centre in Wirral, or one of its networked clinics, for scans and specialist clinic appointments with their consultant every three months.
If the nurse has any concerns about the appearance or symptoms of their patient, they are referred immediately to their nearest acute hospital or booked in for an appointment at The Clatterbridge Cancer Centre.
Terry Dickinson, a lung cancer patient from Fazakerley in Liverpool who has been having appointments via the Telehealth Clinic for five months, said the technology was “definitely the way forward”.
The 66-year-old said: “This is saving me time, effort and money on travelling expenses. I used to travel to Clatterbridge twice a month, now it is twice every three months.
“I have blood tests at hospital in Aintree which is local, the nurse has my results ready for the appointment and then my medication is delivered by the Blood Bikes. It is so easy.
“I was amazed on the very first call at how clear the picture was. I could have been in the same room at the nurse.”
In July, Now Healthcare Group became the first telehealth GP service provider to be declared safe by the Care Quality Commission.