Z.G.NG1, W.D.CHEW1, H.Y.LIN1, Z.L.J.YANG1, W.L.YANG1, W.K.NG1, K.C.YEW1
Tan Tock Seng Hospital1
Teleconsultation has gained significant attention during the COVID-19 pandemic. Delivery of healthcare services via Telemedicine has been galvanised by safe management measures. We report our department’s experience from a Telephone Consultation (T/C) project from 24 June to 18 September 2020.
The eligibility for T/C includes stable medical condition(s) with no requirement for a physical examination and patients must be agreeable prior to T/C. T/C was conducted systematically, ensuring its comprehensiveness and safety. A subsequent face-to-face (FTF) consultation was arranged if there were alarm symptoms, unresolved or new issues. The patient was provided with an electronic patient information sheet and invited to provide feedback via WhatsApp.
940 patients were screened. 133 out of the 141 eligible patients completed T/C. The mean time spent was 6 minutes. 42 patients responded to the feedback survey. Of the respondents: 12% were represented by next-of-kin, 88% spoke English, 62% had attained tertiary education, 69% were >50 years old, 97% were above satisfied, 74% will consider T/C in the future. Perceived advantages include physical contact reduction 78%, no need for travel 71% and reduced waiting time 64%. Perceived disadvantages include lack of result report provision 31%, technical issues 16.7% and unresolved issues 2%. The projected cost for conducting FTF and T/C were not much different.
The COVID-19 pandemic has provided an opportunity to engage and embrace technology in the delivery of healthcare services. Proper patient selection and prior consent for T/C are determining factors. Telemedicine offers an excellent consultation alternative for stable Gastroenterology and Hepatology patients.