HumanInsight Implementation of a telemedicine service to provide skin cancer care in a tertiary plastic surgery unit during COVID-19 - a comprehensive review
J Plast Reconstr Aesthet Surg. 2022 Apr 25:S1748-6815(22)00226-1. doi: 10.1016/j.bjps.2022.04.031. Online ahead of print.
BACKGROUND: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, our tertiary skin cancer service had to adapt rapidly to reduce hospital footfall. Consequently, all clinic appointments for skin cancer patients were converted to telephone consultations. This study aims to provide a comprehensive review of this new service.
METHODS: This study consisted of three domains: patient and staff experience, efficacy and productivity. Patient and staff experience was assessed through prospective surveys. Efficacy of telephone appointments was assessed through prospective review of clinic coding to evaluate outcomes including rate of conversion to face-to-face appointment. Markers of treatment pathway efficacy included time from referral to surgical listing and the incidence of benign lesions placed on skin cancer pathways. Productivity was evaluated through review of the cumulative number of completed and missed appointments over a 1-month period before and during the pandemic.
RESULTS: All patients were satisfied with the telephone consultation and were preferred to previous experience of face-to-face appointments by 67%. Over 80% of responding clinicians felt telephone clinics should remain as a legacy of COVID-19. Time from referral to scheduling for surgery was significantly shorter for urgent lesions when listed through a teleclinic compared to face-to-face appointment. The telephone service allowed us to maintain 46% of the plastic surgery outpatient activity of May 2019 and missed appointments almost halved.
CONCLUSION: Patients and clinicians have responded positively to the new service. This study highlights the merits of an ongoing telephone clinic service for select patients on resolution of the COVID-19 impact on health services.
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