Patient education sessions go virtual at NNUH
Due to the Covid-19 pandemic the team had to reconsider how they delivered their service so they could limit the amount of patient contact, while still offering training sessions for patients.
Before the pandemic, patients due to start on a course of biologic drugs for rheumatoid arthritis were seen twice by the specialist nurses. At the first appointment the specialist nurses would go over various elements of Biologic drugs including their side effects, administration and mechanism of action, alongside also ensuring that patients meet the national NICE criteria to receive these drugs and arranging any screening tests prior to initiation. This would usually be a verbal consultation face-to-face, without use of multimedia. Patients would then come back for a second appointment where any questions would be answered, with the nurses going over their blood tests and clinicians conducting a short examination.
Over the last 6 months, academic clinical fellow in Rheumatology and VR lead for the NNUH, Dr Jordan Tsigarides has been collaborating with a digital health company called Cognitant, who produces digital programs for patient education that can be viewed in virtual reality or on a smartphone or tablet. Together they have produced a program specifically on Biologics and Rheumatoid Arthritis, also collaborating with clinicians at Addenbrooke’s to achieve this.
To reduce the need for face-to-face contact between patients and healthcare professionals, the educational element of the first appointment will now be delivered using this new, innovative virtual reality technology from Cognitant.
Dr Tsigarides said: “We plan to implement this new approach soon and will give patients access to the VR program at home. The second nurse-led appointment will currently be held via teleclinics, and will be used to answer any questions arising after using the interactive program. After using the program, we will also be asking patients to give us their feedback so that we can look to continually improve the content.”
“We believe there will also be a large cost saving with this new approach, and are currently in the process of undertaking a cost-effectiveness analysis alongside colleagues from the University of East Anglia. The trust continually strives to improve patient experience whilst trying to reduce costs. This allows us to build a service transformation fund, so we can then invest further in our wider services.”
Dr Tim Ringrose, CEO of Cognitant, said: “We are delighted to work with the NNUH to help to improve the service given to patients attending the Rheumatology clinic during these difficult times. Covid 19 was the springboard for this innovation, to give patients access to key information about their condition and treatment that they can view at home. We hope that the benefits of improved patient understanding and reduced visits to hospital will be enjoyed well into the future.