Digital appointments have saved patients in Devon more than 200,000 hours of travel time in the last year, according to figures from Devon Clinical Commissioning Group.
In the 12 months up to 22 August 2021, Devon held 350,015 hospital appointments virtually either on the phone or as video appointments. Now, figures have revealed the huge benefits to patients with more than 277,679 hours of travelling time and 13.5 million miles saved over the course of the year.
Feedback on the remote consultations carried out by Northern Devon Healthcare Trust found that patients saved both time and money when attending digital appointments. They were also less reliant on others for transport and found the experience to be less stressful that in person appointments as they could attend from the comfort of their own homes.
Coronavirus may have forced many appointments to go virtual, but for Devon patients it looks as though the trend it set to remain. Though, where necessary, face-to-face appointments will continue to take place, echoing the Royal College of GPs warning that totally remote services won’t be in everyone’s best interests.
Stuart Kyle, consultant rheumatologist at North Devon District Hospital, said: “If a patient needs to be seen face to face because they need an examination, they have communication difficulties or need a diagnostic test we would see them in person, but otherwise keeping patients at home where they are safe, more relaxed and communicate better has to be an advantage.
“As a clinician I think video works better, there’s very little delay, you can share images and leaflets and direct them to websites. You can use the text chat within video calls to explain clearly what their diagnosis is and what the next steps are. Our feedback is that patients really like it.”
The move to virtual appointments has also saved an estimated 2,500 tonnes in greenhouse gas emissions.
Back in October 2020 the NHS became the world’s first national health service to commit to becoming ‘carbon net zero’, which remote appointments help support. In particular the NHS committed itself to two key target as a result of growing evidence of the healthy impact of climate change:
- NHS Carbon Footprint: Covering emissions under NHS direct control, with an ambition for an interim 80% reduction by 2028-2032, and to be net zero by 2040.
- NHS Carbon Footprint Plus: To include the wider supply change, with an ambition for an interim 80% reduction by 2036-2039 and net zero by 2045.