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Skype consultations offer savings for the health service, says NHS digital lead

17 June 2015 - 1:46pm

Evidence gathered by NHS England shows that e-consultations deliver big financial benefits for the NHS, said the organisation’s director of digital technology Beverley Byrant.

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Beverley Byrant promised that nhs.uk will include local content in future

Speaking at the King’s Fund digital health congress in London on 16 June she said that having multidisciplinary teams working via Skype, videoconference, or teleconference ‘really does save money’.

‘It stops the patient having to go in for an appointment and stops all the administration around that appointment,’ she said.

Physiotherapists already make some use of teleconferencing, such as those at Airedale NHS Trust which delivers remote care for prisoners.

And the CSP’s head of practice Steve Tolan described the opportunity for physios to enhance existing services, such as telephone triage, through Skype-based consultations as an exciting prospect.

‘There are examples of this being used already to bring expertise to remote communities. In some instances, this could enhance the physiotherapy offered in primary care and as a first point of contact for practitioners,’ he said.

Ms Byrant acknowledged that the NHS’s digital delivery lagged behind other sectors, such as banking, and that the public found this unacceptable. However, what most people wanted was a choice of channels – including face-to-face, telephone and online – to access the health service, she said.

The NHS Choices website, the single online access point for information and advice, had been very popular since its launch in 2007, according to Ms Bryant. In future, it would focus more on local NHS services.

‘So the vision is to have an nhs.uk/Barnsley or Bristol, where the local authorities and health and wellbeing boards all work together to provide content to meet the needs of citizens in their local area,’ she told delegates.

The long-awaited NHS e-referral service, the national electronic hospital appointment booking system to replace Choose and Book, went live on 15 June. Ms Bryant reported that after some teething troubles on its first day the new system had been working well.

The 15 July edition of Frontline will include an article on the e-referral service in England and what this means for the physiotherapy profession.

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