Moorfields Eye Hospital has rolled out an ambitious digital programme, designed to give patients access to the vital eye care they need without having to travel to hospital.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, the specialist trust has held almost 10,000 appointments to support patients living with a range of eye conditions, those requiring a follow-up to surgery, as well as running an essential accident and emergency (A&E) service virtually.
Following a successful initial roll out just two days after increased lockdown measures were announced, Moorfields is now hosting over 600 video appointments a week to ensure patients continue to get the specialist eye care they need whilst being able to stay at home.
The video consultations run on an easy to use platform which enables patients to see clinicians using their smartphone, computer or tablet, without the need to travel to hospital.
Typically, patients will be able to see an A&E doctor within one minute of logging on to the platform, which is available through the Moorfields website. The platform has a virtual waiting room where a ‘virtual receptionist’ can effectively prioritise patients and signpost them to the correct service.
Almost eight in ten people are able to get the treatment they need without travelling into hospital, with almost 95% of patients giving the service they received a maximum rating of five stars.
Jennifer Slater, 68, has been treated at Moorfields for over six decades, but she suddenly became concerned about one of her eyes. She explains: “A few weeks ago I was worried about my left eye. Bearing in mind I am 68 and not that great with technology, I decided to try and get a video consultation at Moorfields. I clicked on the link, followed the very clear instructions and within five minutes a doctor called me back. It was wonderful, I felt like I was in the clinic.
“She quickly got my notes, asked me some questions and even managed to get a look in my eye. She explained thoroughly what she felt the problem was and emailed a prescription to my local chemist immediately.
“With what we are coping with today, many patients like me are scared to come into hospitals and of course doctors and nurses are feeling the same. The wonderful thing about the consultation is that you don't feel like you are miles away, it’s like you are in the clinic. It made me feel so much better knowing someone could not only talk to me but see me.”
This service has enabled Moorfields to offer emergency eye care services across more areas of London than before, which has enabled staff at other trusts in London to treat patients with coronavirus.
Dr Peter Thomas, director of digital innovation and consultant paediatric ophthalmologist at Moorfields Eye Hospital, said: “We are proud that we are able to offer this new service, helping to keep both patients and NHS staff safe whilst continuing a wider range of clinics than we thought would be possible at this time.
“The results and feedback we see over the next few months will help us to decide how widely we should use video consultations as part of our ongoing services.
“Necessity has forced us to approach problems in new ways and this is a great example of how we can utilise technology to provide a rapid solution.”
David Probert, taskforce lead for video consultation, NHS England and Improvement and chief executive of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The prospect of losing your sight can feel overwhelming, and particularly so during the pandemic. Our virtual A&E provides an all-important lifeline to anyone worried about losing their sight – providing rapid access to our team of specialists without the need to travel. Across the NHS, trusts have been innovating at pace, thanks to having the right technology at the right time.”
Video consultations are already available for the following Moorfields services: A&E, adnexal, urgent eye care, general ophthalmology, genetics, neuro-ophthalmology, paediatric external eye disease, paediatric orthoptics, strabismus, uveitis, ocular oncology, medical retina, anaesthetic pre-assessment, counselling, and pharmacy. They are being introduced across more specialties, with a target of 1,000 video consultations a week.
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