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CL IN ICAL ENGIN E E R ING


The benefits video conferencing for patient consultations have been researched for a number of years. However, adoption was slow. The COVID-19 pandemic has now seen this technology rapidly adopted and NHS England has chosen ‘Attend Anywhere’ as their provider. This is now being widely used for virtual clinics or e-consultations to replace many outpatient appointments and offers many benefits including freeing up clinical time and a dramatic reduction in wasted appointments when patients do not attend. The challenge for our clinical colleagues is that they will not have that empirical data to draw upon; what did the lump feel like etc? However, with basic medical devices readily available over the counter, physiological measurements traditionally undertaken during a visit to the GP or outpatient clinic can be performed by the patient. Many homes are now equipped with electronic, non-invasive blood pressure devices and tympanic thermometers. GP practices have also introduced an e-consultation service which provides the doctor with responses to a series of questions that are tailored to the ailment or issue with the patient. While this remote working cannot work in all situations, it does show a new direction for future healthcare provision.


Of course, there are times when physiological measurements need to be


taken and a physical not virtual consultation is required; an electrocardiogram for example or even blood samples. Mobile phones and messenger apps such as WhatsApp using Voice of IP (VoIP) have proved invaluable in facilitating targeted rapid communication and, in many ways, have helped reduce the amount of email traffic keeping communications responsive and involving only the key stakeholders. Schools, Colleges and Universities are adopting technology for remote education provision and we are seeing an increase in e-learning to provide training. Will this be the future for training? While this clearly has its place as a vehicle for delivering content around underpinning knowledge in the healthcare setting, it cannot replace hands- on experience, with clinicians learning how to perform CPR or cannulation, for example, or clinical engineering/estate staff learning how to maintain medical equipment and plant.


The COVID-19 pandemic has been an enormous challenge to all who work in healthcare and other key services, not only in the UK, but around the world. What we must do now is take the opportunity to embed what we have learnt, so if there is a second wave, third wave or other pandemics in the future, we will be better equipped to deal with the adversity and hopefully minimise suffering and the number of


fatalities. Business as usual going forward will be very different than it was a few months ago.


CSJ


References 1 Department of Health (2006) Health technical Memorandum 02-01: Medical gas pipeline systems. London: The Stationery Office


2 Embury-Denis, T (2020) Coronavirus: A timeline from how Britain went from ‘low risk’ to an unprecedented national shutdown. Independent 21st March. Available from https://www.independent.co.uk/news/ uk/home-news/coronavirus-uk-timeline-deaths- cases-covid-19-nhs-social-distancing-a9416331. html Accessed 30 June 2020


3 MHRA (2020) Rapidly Manufactured Ventilator System (RMVS001). London: MHRA


4 H M Treasury (2020) Chancellor provides over £14 billion for our NHS and vital public services 13th April. Available from https://www.gov.uk/ government/news/chancellor-provides-over-14- billion-for-our-nhs-and-vital-public-services Accessed 30 June 2020


About the author


Dr Scott Brown is a chartered engineer and chartered scientist. He has extensive experience of clinical engineering, risk management, assurance and project management. He is a registered clinical scientist with HCPC and has over 30 years of experience in engineering. As well as working in the NHS, seven


years ago, he established Health Tech Solutions – offering consultancy services to the healthcare sector in strategic replacement planning and clinical engineering training. Scott is a medical device expert and trainer on medical & dental equipment and medical gases for Eastwood Park Training. He is pleased to have made a contribution by providing advice as part of the Ventilator Challenge UK and supporting the London Excel Nightingale hospital. www.healthtechsolutions.co.uk


30 l WWW.CLINICALSERVICESJOURNAL.COM SEPTEMBER 2020


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