mobile phoneA project to use Skype for patient appointments is set to be rolled out as an alternative for all patient consultations across South West London and St Georges Mental Health NHS Trust after a successful pilot.

The trust has been piloting the use of Skype for patient appointments with two services – Sutton Community Mental Health Teams and the Deaf Community Teams – to see if patients benefit from the opportunity to have an alternative way to have consultations.

All patients who used Skype to talk to their doctor from their own home or office in the pilot were positive about the process, and said they would definitely use it again in the future.

Stuart Adams, consultant psychiatrist and clinical director for Sutton and Merton, said: “I am delighted by the success of our Skype pilot. There are some obvious advantages to using Skype for those who would benefit from using it, and our patients have given us very positive feedback and have consistently told us that they are grateful for the alternatives options to face-to-face consultations.

“We are really pleased that this is being rolled out throughout the trust and that all our teams will have Skype consultations as an option. This will be especially useful for our national services, where patients from all over the UK can get in touch where appropriate more easily.”

The trust’s pilot looked at how attendance at appointments could be improved and during the pilot patients were offered Skype as another option for a consultation, and not replacement for face-to-face or telephone consultations.

In the case of deaf patients, a Skype consultation also reduced the need to book a British Sign Language (BSL) interpreter for a remote consultation, saving time and money. As a result of the success, the use of Skype for consultations will now be rolled out throughout the trust in December.

Herbert Klein, communication facilitator for deaf adult & children, young people & family services, added: "Skype is a good opportunity for deaf staff to communicate face-to-face with other professionals, both deaf or hearing, using BSL and without having to use a BSL interpreter. This means deaf staff will have equality of access to communication routes, building better access and creating more effective rapport.

“Without doubt this will open the door for the deaf community to achieve parity with varied agencies or people and break down the barriers of poor communication between the Deaf and hearing world."

Microsoft has commended the trust’s innovative approach and created a case study video to highlight the success of the pilot and encourage its use in other suitable health environments.

Suzy Foster, director, Microsoft UK Healthcare, said: “It’s great to see our technology being used in a way that makes a real difference to people. Video consultations provide a convenient and flexible alternative to face to face appointments.

“South West London and St Georges Mental Health NHS Trust are leading the way in offering innovative alternatives to traditional consultations, and proving the benefits of using Skype for Business, both for patients and healthcare professionals.”

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