by Sarah Kavanagh
Like everyone in the NHS, our team has faced new challenges as a result of COVID-19. We usually only run face-to-face clinics, but since March have had to change to virtual reviews. This is something which we had discussed trying previously, but were unsure whether it would work in practice – would we be able to effectively assess asthma control? Could we teach properly over video? Would families like it? Then COVID hit and just as parties, family reunions and even weddings moved to video, so too did our clinics. In preparation for a potential second wave, we wanted to move as many appointments as possible forward to summer, so that we could ensure our patients’ asthma was well controlled and they were prepared for the return to school, whatever that would look like. In order to facilitate these additional appointments we would need a clinic model which would support this and one option we explored was video group consultations
My colleague, Ana, had been doing face to face group consultations for some time and found it worked really well. Group consultations are a clinic model whereby multiple patients with the same condition are seen at the same time. This was something we really wanted to do more of as it was time-saving for us and parents appreciated spending more time having their questions answered by the team as well as learning from one another. We had found it difficult to run face-to-face sessions regularly as we struggled to find a room big enough to accommodate 6 patients and their parents. Doing video group consultations would have the advantage of not needing to rely on finding a space in which to have the session. It seemed like the perfect solution!
So my colleague, Natalie, and I went about setting it up. Doing it virtually, we had to think outside the box. We usually get patients to fill out a questionnaire with confidential information on it so this had to be sent via email and sent back to us before the session. This proved tricky as we had to do some chasing to get the forms back!
On the day of the first VGC, we were apprehensive but excited. We practised our teaching presentation and tried to anticipate any technical issues we might come up against. Unfortunately only 2 patients of the 6 we had booked in attended. This was initially disappointing but we continued nonetheless. The families were really engaged and we were able to draw some parallels between their experiences. We were really pleased with the feedback we received, all found it helpful and would recommend to others.
We have done a second session since which had a similar outcome. Going forward, it will be important for us to collect feedback not only from those who attended but also those who didn’t so that we can work with families to find a clinic model that best serves them.
While video reviews are not perfect, and certainly not all of our patients have access to the necessary technology or are comfortable using it, for many patients I think that video consultations have been a positive thing as there is no need to worry about transport, childcare, being stuck in a waiting room etc. I also feel that it changes the dynamic between clinician and family as it feels like a more mutual space to meet in. I hope that over time this can help to create a more family-centred approach to care.
While I’m looking forward to life going back to whatever normal will look like in the future, I am sure that virtual reviews are here to stay and I am glad we have had the opportunity to use them.