Dr David Griffiths is our new Clinical Lead. His career combines part time GP work in Oxford with participating in large scale NHS improvement projects. In this first blog he gives his initial thoughts on using Consultant Connect (which is available in Oxford among other areas) and the potential benefits of the system becoming widely available.
As a clinician new to Consultant Connect – the service has recently set up in Oxford for mental health – I am intrigued by the impact it can have. I’m a user myself and, from speaking to others who have used the service, my overall impression has been very positive. Furthermore, thinking as a doctor who has a particular interest in systems improvement, there are a number of clear benefits to using the service.
I have been impressed with the ability to get consultant level advice in real time, with the nuances of a telephone conversation rather than the one-time response of email advice. If you ask a good question you should be able to make a clear management plan for your patient, often avoiding unnecessary hospital visits and investigations.
Even when the management plan doesn’t change, reassurance from a consultant can be extremely helpful for both patient and GP. Calls may be educational, as a topic is explored, or an ethical debate about the best way to manage a complex situation. Personally, I will be reflecting on a recent call I made – regarding whether to intervene in a difficult scenario – as part of the preparation for my appraisal.
It is incredibly useful to be able to choose a convenient time to call rather than waiting for a ring-back which will almost inevitably happen mid-surgery. As a busy GP, I am always concerned about losing track of the answerphone messages I’ve left requesting advice, so to get that advice immediately is really useful. Looking at the statistics, response times seem far quicker than I’m used to when hanging on for switchboard and then waiting for a clinician to answer their bleep.
From a healthcare system perspective, there are obvious benefits if calls lead to patients who would have been referred to clinic being managed in other ways, perhaps with a change in medication or a simple procedure. Even those who do end up being referred should end up in the right place first time, often with preparatory investigations having been done in advance.
For patients, this means less ‘pinballing’ around the system which can only be a good thing. For clinicians and managers this means less re-work as things get done the right way first time. Less re-work means safer care and less cost!
In these different ways, Consultant Connect can make a huge contribution towards the healthcare holy grail: safe and high quality care, close to home, saving money and providing great patient experience.