Waiting times are a significant cause for complaints in NHS services – GP surgeries are increasingly overstretched and referrals to specialist services can often take weeks, even months to be fulfilled.
In its delivery of an NHS commissioned Teledermatology service in Surrey Downs, Communitas Clinics is leading the way in reducing waiting times and therefore improving healthcare alongside patient satisfaction, by using a combination of technology and expertise to link in with GP surgeries and allow for fast diagnosis and referral to appropriate services where necessary.
This teledermatology service gives GPs the opportunity to seek expert help to assist diagnosis of skin lesions. This results in timely provision of a diagnosis and management plan (report) supplied to the referring clinician to identify if care should be provided in either a secondary or primary care setting.
The way the service works is as follows: referring clinicians – GPs in surgeries – are able to send clinical information and images to dermatology specialists within the service and receive diagnoses and time management plans. GPs capture a high-resolution image of the lesion using high-quality digital technology. These images and supporting information are then sent to the dermatology specialist via a secure interactive platform for review. The technology systems in place ensure GPs have rapid access to specialist opinion, and this, therefore, reduces the amount of unnecessary secondary care referrals. The knock on effect of this is that hospital waiting lists are shorter; patients can be seen sooner and there will be less stress placed on already overstretched services.
The service began in March 2017 and in the five months since it’s been running has shown 27% of patients have been diagnosed as benign and 16% of patients have been managed in primary care – all of whom would previously have been referred to secondary care.
89% of GPs have stated it has enhanced their dermatology knowledge, and 19 practices in the areas are now signed up to the service and counting.
A typical path for a patient with a skin lesion could see them referred to secondary care unnecessarily – ending up on a hospital waiting list for 6 weeks when in actual fact their condition may have been treated in a community setting.
Communitas Clinics is committed to delivering high-quality NHS services in accessible and convenient ways that benefit both the patient and clinicians alike, by bringing services into the community.