A TEAM based at Morriston Hospital has tapped into technology to allow patients to ‘attend’ clinics without leaving home.
Getting to hospital for appointments is not always easy for anyone living in rural areas – and even more so for those with multiple sclerosis.
Now the regional MS team has won a prestigious award for making access much easier through the use of smart phones and tablets.
The team may be based in Morriston but it covers the ABMU and Hywel Dda areas, looking after people living as far north as Ceredigion.
Video conferencing facilities have been used for many years to allow Morriston staff to hold clinics in Bronglais Hospital in Aberystwyth.
This was increased in 2012 with the support of the MS Society, reducing traveling time and costs for the clinicians – but with no additional benefit to patients as they still had to get to Bronglais.
Last year, with the support of a pharmaceutical company, the team piloted the use of iPads for patients to have a consultation from either their home or their place of work.
Lead MS specialist nurse Helen Owen said: “When people with MS first start on disease modifying therapy they need to be seen regularly for blood monitoring. We also need to be sure their injection sites are okay and that they are tolerating their treatment well. They are seen one month after they start, then eight weeks after that and then three months so it’s a big commitment to make. We run clinics in Bronglais Hospital and have outreach clinics in other locations but that still means the patient has to travel. If they live in rural areas the condition of the roads could make attendance difficult, then there is their disability to consider.”
The pharmaceutical company’s support meant the team was able to buy iPads, which can be used to link with the patient’s tablet or phone.
Helen said: “Patients go to their local hospital or GP to have their bloods taken. We can then use the iPads to have a chat with them. If they are having problems with their injection sites, for example, they can show us. It’s much easier for them. One patient who is in work was able to have her review using the iPad from her office so she didn’t even have to take any time off.”
The service is available to patients in both ABMU and Hywel Dda health board areas. Surveys have confirmed they were all either satisfied or very satisfied with their experience.
Nicola Jones, from Llanelli, said: “It was great to not have the hassle of driving to clinic and find parking. Also, I had my consultation while I was at work so there was very little down time.”
The MS team has now won the best poster award at the national MS Trust Conference for its work developing the iPad clinics.
Dr Owen Pearson, consultant neurologist and clinical lead, said: “This is an important advance in developing both a patient centred and responsive service, as well as improving efficacy. The recent MS society report My MS, My Needs raised the difficulties people with MS living in rural areas face in accessing specialist services. The introduction of modern technology into clinical practice has improved this access.”