Virtual clinic a big help to postrate cancer patients

A VIRTUAL clinic for patients with prostate cancer who are no longer required to come to hospital for follow-up appointments has proved a huge success.

The virtual clinic is suitable for prostate cancer patients whose disease is stable two years after their radiotherapy treatment and who are no longer required to attend for hospital review.

This allows them to become more confident in their self-management of their condition through education, information and access to specialist advice as required.

Prostate cancer affects elderly men more often than young men and is therefore a bigger health concern in developed countries.

Follow-up care for patients with prostate cancer is usually lifelong resulting in many hospital appointments and can be a great demand on people’s time.

Suitable patients attending routine outpatient clinics were asked for their opinion on having follow-up appointments without attending the outpatient clinic in person and attending a virtual clinic instead.

Most patients seemed to be happy with the idea and local prostate cancer support groups also provided positive feedback.

Dr Phyllis Windsor, Consultant Clinical Oncologist, said: “At any one time there will be a number of patients who will need monitoring, treatment and support that can be offered via the virtual clinic model.

“The virtual clinic enables people to maintain their health, independence and wellbeing and will support the effective management of long-term health conditions within the community, freeing up resource time in acute settings to manage existing and predicted service demands.

“A patient satisfaction questionnaire demonstrated that 98.4% were happy with the new service and 98.8% of patients reported being well supported by the virtual clinic.

“This particular virtual clinic is extremely successful and is constantly accruing patients weekly.

In 2010, the clinic recorded 700 outpatient visits, which means that these visits would have been ‘actual’ rather than ‘virtual’, if the virtual clinic did not exist.”

A website was designed and a video recording of the consultant explaining how the virtual clinic can be accessed, along with links to approved prostate cancer information sites and NHS Tayside leaflets, and frequently asked questions.

A specialist urology nurse was appointed to see potential virtual clinic patients when they attend for their routine follow-up outpatient appointment.

The nurse then explains the virtual clinic to them and asks the patient if they are agreeable to be enrolled.

Using existing hospital IT resources, post-dated prostate blood test requests are printed and given to the patient every six months, which they can use to get blood taken by a practice nurse at their GP surgery at any time that is convenient for them during that particular month.

They are then contacted promptly by the nurse with their blood result and any action required.

A prostate follow up diary was designed to be given to the patient so that they have a permanent record of treatment, blood test results and date of next test, allowing them to be in complete control of their care plan.

There is also the facility to remind by phone or letter patients who have not had their blood checked.

Macmillan Cancer Support have also funded a three year post for a Macmillan urology specialist nurse to co-ordinate the service, audit the results and patient experience, and take the lead for assessing the impact of the service.

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