Only a small proportion of lung cancer patients are being offered video consultations says a new report published (26th November 2020), supported by Lung Cancer Nursing UK, the British Thoracic Oncology Group, UK Lung Cancer Coalition and Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation.
The report, which examines both patient and health professional perspectives on the increased use of virtual consultations in response to COVID-19, says, despite the huge increase in virtual appointments during the first wave of the pandemic, video was used in only 5% of patient consultations – with 51% of health professionals surveyed not using video for patient consultations at all.
“The fact that video is so seldom used to deliver virtual consultations may surprise some people – but not those working within NHS hospitals,” says Professor Sanjay Popat, Consultant Thoracic Medical Oncologist, Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, and Steering Committee Chair, the British Thoracic Oncology Group.
The report states nearly seven out of ten (69 per cent) patients are not given a choice between telephone or video – and more than three quarters (76 per cent) of healthcare professionals said they had not received any training or guidance for delivering virtual appointments.
Almost two-thirds (65 per cent) of health professionals said lack of computer equipment to hold video consultations was a regular problem.
“This survey exposes some of the huge infrastructure changes that need to happen to make video consultations workable long-term in both secondary and tertiary lung cancer care settings,” adds Professor Popat.
While 75 per cent of healthcare professionals agreed that video consultations were more convenient for patients – the report reveals only 30 per cent said they were more convenient for them.
Disadvantages include the inability to share visual material with their patients; greater difficulty in spotting a change in a patient’s condition; and the lack of a quiet, private, meeting spaces in hospital to deliver video consultations.
As a result, the report highlights a series of key considerations to help improve the use of video (and telephone) consultations, and develop best practice tools – not only for lung cancer, but other cancer services and the wider NHS:
Further research is needed into the use of virtual consultations involving patients who do not have computer access, or feel confident in using them, to ensure health inequalities are not being exacerbated.
Healthcare professionals should be provided with training to support both communication and technical aspects involved in the delivery of virtual consultations.
Given the often, late stage, diagnosis and urgency that comes with it, there is a need for lung cancer-specific best practice guidelines which go beyond current general clinical guidance for the management of remote consultations.
Resource will be needed if NHS Trusts are to invest in the technology needed to make virtual consultations an integral part of the patient pathway.
“When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, healthcare professionals across the NHS went to extraordinary lengths to keep patients as safe as possible,” says Martin Grange, Chair of the UK Lung Cancer Coalition.
“In the right circumstances, and with the necessary infrastructure and support for health professionals, virtual consultations can offer patients quicker access to the expertise that is required in delivering some aspects of their care.”