Telemedicine Technology Could Help Patients Access Immediate Care


The Law Of... receiving immediate care

It has been revealed that over half of NHS trusts are using telemedicine technology to treat patients remotely.

It has been revealed that over half of NHS trusts are using telemedicine technology to treat patients remotely.

Responding to the news, Ramune Mickeviciute – Paralegal on Simpson Millar's Medical Negligence team – explains how the technology could help patients and considers whether it could go too far.

Treating Patients Remotely

Telemedicine, the name given to a diagnosis or treatment prescribed to patients using telecommunications, has taken off in recent years, with one private provider even releasing a mobile app that allows users to hold video appointments with a GP from their smartphone.

Using the umbrella term 'telehealth' it has been revealed that remote treatment and diagnosis has been adopted by a large number of NHS trusts.

A series of Freedom of Information requests by IT service provider Imerja revealed that of the 71 NHS trusts that responded, 58% were using some form of telemedicine technology.

Described by one NHS trust as "video consultations between healthcare professionals and patients", telemedicine was mainly used by respondents of the poll to treat stroke patients, as 41% of trusts administer stroke care remotely.

Ensuring Patients Receive Immediate Care

With many NHS trusts facing staff shortages, and one beleaguered trust attributing proposals to close an A&E department overnight due to a lack of staff, it is hoped that telemedicine could help fill a treatment gap left by struggling services.

Used correctly, advocates of telemedicine hope that the technology could ensure all patients receive immediate care and that an increased adoption of the service could lead to more patients being connected directly to expert consultants, no matter where they are based.

Other listed benefits of telemedicine include saving time and resources for medical professionals as, in cases where a patient is physically unable to visit a GP, the technology could prohibit the need of medical staff to visit patients at home.

There are still some concerns over the effectiveness of telehealth services, as a collation of reports on Technology Enabled Care Services (TECS) by NHS England shows that its effectiveness may vary depending on the patient's condition.

It is due to this varying effectiveness that there have been calls to limit the application of telemedicine. Commenting on these calls, and evaluating telemedicine as a whole, Ramune said:

"In order to maximise the quality of care that patients receive, it is important to look for modern treatment solutions. When we consider technology in the medical profession, it is important to recognise mechanisms that would help patients reach medical practitioners faster."

"It's great to hear that over half of NHS trusts have adopted telemedicine technology, however it is important that other trusts look at adopting this technology."

"Telemedicine technology is particularly useful to patients who, due to their conditions, are unable to leave their home. For these patients, the appointments can not only save time, it can help them receive immediate treatment."

"Moving forward, I hope that telemedicine technology is developed to a point where it can connect patients, from the comfort of their own homes, to the very best specialists in the country."

"There are instances where we require clients to visit medico-legal experts throughout England, in order for us to obtain an independent report based on their medical condition. Sometimes these clients can be house bound and find it difficult to make appointments – in these instances telemedicine technology can connect patient and specialist."

"Despite this, telemedicine should only be used when it is believed it will result in the best outcome for patients. Despite the great prognosis of telemedicine, it should not be used in order to minimise hospital visits. Nobody should take away the right to seek care at a hospital."

When Care Fails

With the rise of telemedicine often being synonymous with lower staffing levels there are concerns that this technology may reduce funds for other medical necessities.

If you feel that your level of care has fallen below a level of reasonable expectation, whether this care was administered face-to-face or via the use of telemedicine, then you should make a complaint to the NHS directly, who are obliged to investigate the complaint under their Duty of Candour.

If you are unhappy with the outcome of a complaint and would like to escalate your concerns, a compensation claim for medical negligence could help mitigate your sub-standard care and ensure an NHS trust reviews practices so that other patients do not receive the same unacceptable level of care.

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