The following extract which focusses on Consultant Connect has been reproduced below. You can read the article in full here.
Oxford’s digihealth innovators rising to the COVID-19 challenge – TechTribe Oxford
GPs also need access to specialist opinions. Consultant Connect was founded when a GP expressed frustration that connecting to a hospital specialist required them to go through the hospital switchboard and it could take time to find an available consultant. After five years of operation, the company is past the initial start-up phase, working with 60 hospitals and covering 26 million patients. With the system, a wide range of clinicians such as paramedics, GPs, nurses and GPwSIs (GPs with special interests) can connect to a specialist within 25 seconds (UK average). Consultants are on a rota to ensure availability.
The Consultant Connect platform has both a telephone and photo messaging option. Using the IG (information governance) secure photo system, a GP can take a photo of a skin lesion and send it directly to a dermatologist, sometimes receiving advice within a minute. This service reduces hospital visits and cuts demand on the two-week wait pathway for cancer patients, meaning the patients that need to be seen urgently are seen in a clinic.
The Consultant Connect service primarily connects clinicians to their local trust. However, with shortages of specialists in some areas and the massively enhanced demand of the pandemic, there is now an option for NHS areas to use Consultant Connect’s National Consultant Network (NCN), composed of NHS Consultants able to answer out-of-area calls in their spare time. The NCN can support local consultants, acting as a backup when they can’t respond to requests, and provide specialties that are not available locally, such as neurology, dermatology, etc. Or they can answer all telephone advice and guidance calls from GPs, leaving local consultants free to help the patients they need to see.
NHS guidance on mental health during COVID-19, published in March 2020, stated the increased need for verbal advice to be provided to mental health wards, as inpatients were at risk of contracting COVID-19. Consultant Connect’s platform gives many mental health trusts access to an even wider range of physical care specialists. Where mental health providers need physical specialties that can’t be provided locally, they can have access to the NCN. GP’s and other clinicians can use Consultant Connect to source near-instant mental health advice for their patients and, with this type of consultation, the patient is also involved in the conversation.