Over 1,500 virtual and telephone appointments have been carried out by NHS Tayside staff so far this month due to the coronavirus.
NHS Tayside is making use of its video link service ‘Near Me’ as access to hospitals and GP surgeries remains restricted due to the Covid 19 pandemic.
The service allows people to arrange an appointment with a healthcare professional via video call.
In 2019, the service was used in Tayside 250 times, however last month the figure rose to 440 times and has now exceeded 1,500.
Anne Ritchie, a specialist nurse in the dermatology department at Ninewells Hospital, started using the service recently and said it allowed her to continue monitoring her patients.
She said: “I am a complete convert to this way of working. I was reluctant to begin with, mainly because I thought I would struggle with the technical side of things. I honestly could not have been more wrong, it is so easy once you know how.
“Using virtual appointments has been a godsend during these trying times and has allowed me to continue to monitor my patients and arrange their prescriptions without the need for them to come to hospital.
“This has been particularly important for dermatology patients who are immunocompromised due to their medication and therefore at a higher risk of contracting the virus. I can honestly say that I will definitely continue to use Near Me beyond coronavirus.”
Through the service patients can use their device to enter an online waiting area for their booked appointment.
GP Partner at the Mill Practice in Dundee, Dr Moira Kennedy, has been using the service during the coronavirus outbreak and says it is invaluable.
She said: “We have used Near Me predominately to see skin conditions, but it has also been useful to assess some mental health issues and to see some patients who would otherwise have needed a house call.
“We have even used it in a care home setting which, given the current risk of coronavirus, has been invaluable. It has allowed us to see and talk to all manner of patients for a variety of reasons and once the patient gets the hang of using the camera on their phone it is really very simple to use.
“I believe it is a very useful tool, not just during the current pandemic but also moving forward once this crisis is over.”
Laic Khalique, Director of Digital Technology at NHS Tayside, said: “This is an unprecedented change in the way we deliver our health services and is real tribute to our staff who have adapted very quickly to new ways of working.
“The Digital Team is working extremely hard to ensure that these changes deliver long term benefits to our patients beyond the COVID-19 response so that in future, where clinically appropriate, the majority of our patients will be able to access our appointment services remotely, reducing travel and offering a service that is much more convenient for our patients.”