Researchers at the University of Adelaide have this week begun trials of a new patient care model set to benefit both those waiting for surgery and healthcare professionals by providing comprehensive patient analysis without the need for travel.
The model, which goes by the name of Computer Health Assessment by Telephone (CHAT), is an over-the-phone and computer-based method of consulting patients who are waiting for surgery.
This will ease pressure on outpatient clinics and medical professionals, while making it easier for patients by reducing or eliminating travel time needed to attend face-to-face consultations.
Professor Guy Ludbrook, who is the leader of the project, Head of Acute Care Medicine at the University of Adelaide and a Specialist Anaesthetist at the Royal Adelaide Hospital, explained CHAT's process in an April 23 press release.
"With CHAT, surgery patients will have an initial 20-minute consultation over the phone with a non-clinical but trained healthcare worker," he stated.
"Information provided by the patient is derived using a clinically proven questionnaire and entered into a computer database, which helps to determine the comprehensive needs of the patient, including any risks to their health. A detailed analysis is then sent to anaesthetists, doctors, nurses and pharmacists for their action," Professor Ludbrook stated.
If this approach to healthcare and patient assessment appears a little impersonal and potentially too 'clinical' to be effective, Professor Ludbrook assures CHAT will be highly specific.
"This [patient-provided information] means that each patient is treated based on their specific needs, with a checklist approach which assists clinicians [to] ensure their care is precise and consistent," he stated.
However, Professor Ludbrook also points out that face-to-face assessment will still be required for patients with complex needs. However, "knowledge of their circumstances and medical conditions before admission allows us to develop options," he stated.
A previous pilot study by Professor Ludbrook and colleagues at the University of Adelaide, Royal Adelaide Hospital, Royal Perth Hospital and University of Western Australia found telephone interviews may be just as effective, if not more comprehensive, than face-to-face interviews with trained anaesthetists. This was according to assessment of consultations with over 500 patients scheduled for elective surgery.
Such developments in the healthcare system may result in increased quality and benefits for those with private health insurance or hospital cover, as healthcare professionals experience less pressure due time spent on face-to-face interviews and have access to comprehensive and detailed assessments.
In addition, reduced travel time will make healthcare even less complicated for patients.
"Studies indicate that hospital visits can be more streamlined, with reduced waiting and consultation times when this type of computer support is available. In the future, around 50-90 per cent of patients won't need to spend time travelling to an outpatient clinic and waiting for consultation if they don't really need to," Professor Ludbrook concluded.
The Royal Adelaide Hospital is the location for the trials, and is supported by the Central Adelaide Local Health Service.