Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support have piloted a new service that offers patients with brain metastases the option to have their consultation from home via video.

Virtual Clinic was trialled as part of efforts to help improve care for patients with brain tumours across the East Midlands. After booking an appointment via an online booking system, patients receive a link that enables them to connect to a video meeting with their clinician at the scheduled time.

Once the appointment is over, the email link is made redundant and the meeting room no longer exists.

The digital outpatient service is based on a platform supplied by cloud conferencing firm Involve. The platform allows patients to access the virtual consultation room without having to sign up for a user account, thus making it quicker and more secure.

Micheal O’Cathail, clinical oncology specialist registrar at Nottingham University Hospitals (NUH), said: “We wanted to utilise remote consultations in a regional clinic setting which aims assess and follow up patients who are being considered for specialist radiotherapy for brain metastases.

“As these patients are unable to drive, coming to clinic can be onerous so we wanted to bring specialist care to the patient rather than bringing the patient to us.”

During the pilot, held between March and October this year, patients were offered the choice of video consultations. Over a seven-month period, 37% of appointments in the brain metastases unit were held via Virtual Clinic. Clinician and patient feedback was “thoroughly assessed” throughout the pilot, Involve said.

O’Cathail added: “Initially, the clinician involved in the pilot was sceptical regarding the usefulness of virtual assessment, but is now converted to the concept, having seen the benefits of reducing unnecessary patient travel whilst simultaneously being reassured that the consultation process felt as complete as face-to-face appointments.”

“The feedback from patients has been unanimously positive, with them citing that they found the time they saved form avoiding travelling, and the prevention of disruption as the main benefits from using the Virtual Clinic platform. Ninety-five percent of patients involved in the pilot have said they would like to continue seeing their clinician via Virtual Clinic.”

Nottingham University Hospitals is now looking to expand its use of Virtual Clinic to other departments, including chemotherapy and late effects clinic.

Virtual, or remote, clinics have been rolled out at a number of NHS trusts in the UK as a means of freeing up time for patient and clinicians, as well as reducing unnecessary journeys for patients who may to too unwell to travel.

St Helens and Knowsley, for example, recently ran a six-month pilot across its drains outreach and stroke review services, which led did-not-attends (DNAa) to drop from nearly a quarter to 10%.