Rowcroft Hospice goes virtual with patient care
Rowcroft Hospice is embracing technology by using video to carry out remote consultations with patients and families, enabling its care teams to reach patients who are shielding from COVID-19, without compromising patients’ safety. Using the video platform AccuRX — used by GPs around the country to conduct virtual consultations with patients — Rowcroft Hospice care teams are finding the innovative tool to be more effective in clinical assessments than purely telephone consultations.
“Many of our patients are in the extremely vulnerable category and are shielding from COVID-19, so any visitors into their homes pose an element of risk for them,” explains Dr Gill Horne, Rowcroft’s Director of Patient Care. “AccuRX is proving highly successful in enabling us to carry out virtual home visits to care for our patients, without any risk to them at all. Where appropriate, we are of course still visiting patients and families at home and those who cannot connect virtually.”
The Torquay-based charity — which cares for people with life-limiting illnesses and their families across 300 square miles of South Devon — was planning to pilot video consultations next year, but the COVID-19 pandemic has brought this forward. The success with the AccuRX video platform has shaped Rowcroft’s decision to continue conducting video-consultations into the future. Encrypted to uphold data protection, the AccuRX software is enhancing Rowcroft’s clinical assessment and providing meaningful connectivity with patients and families.
“When carrying out consultations, there are some clear advantages of using video over the more traditional use of the telephone,” explains Dr Horne. “Video allows us to see the patient and to visually assess any signs and symptoms associated with an illness. For example, being able to assess someone’s pallor (paleness of skin) or their use of accessory muscles in breathing can influence your management of that patient. Video provides us with important visual clues that we are unable to collect by telephone.”
Another benefit of using the video platform is that it reduces the time spent travelling by Rowcroft’s care teams, thus allowing them to care for more patients. For some Rowcroft staff who are shielding, the video link enables them to continue managing their caseloads and caring for their patients from home; it is helping to keep staff safe as well as their patients.
“Video consultation can be helpful as part of an introduction to a new patient and allowing both the patient and clinician the opportunity to put a face to a name,” says Sarah Baker, one of Rowcroft’s Community Nurse Specialists. “I have found it useful when talking to patients to see them visually, as this helps to inform my assessment and can provide a level of understanding that is sometimes missing on telephone calls.”
For Rowcroft, innovative technology has also played a crucial role in providing training during the pandemic. The charity has been using digital platforms to train its own staff, and has offered online training and support to care home staff across the region.
Known locally as an expert authority on end-of-life care, Rowcroft cares for all patients —regardless of background, circumstance or diagnosis, including those with COVID-19 — in its Inpatient Unit in Torquay, and in patients’ homes across South Devon. Rowcroft’s care has been rated as ‘outstanding’ (the highest possible rating) by the Care Quality Commission. The charity’s central philosophy is to put the patients’ choices at the centre of their end-of-life care: this means helping patients to die well, with the dignity and respect that everyone deserves.