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Galway University Hospitals deliver over 36,000 virtual outpatient consultations

Galway University Hospitals deliver over 36,000 virtual outpatient consultations

Clinical teams at Galway University Hospitals have delivered over 36,000 virtual outpatient consultations since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Commenting Chris Kane, Hospital Manager, Galway University Hospitals said, “The COVID-19 pandemic has had a huge impact on how we deliver patient services in both University Hospital Galway and Merlin Park University Hospital. Almost overnight clinical teams had to re-assess how they could safely manage patients and put plans and processes in place to enable that. It was not possible, from the perspective of both patient and staff safety, to run many of our face to face outpatient clinics so our clinical teams used technology to link with patients and continue to monitor them.

“This was very challenging as our hospitals normally deliver over 280,000 outpatient appointments every year. However, all our clinical teams reacted really quickly to the rapidly evolving situation and put systems in place to ensure that their patients continued to have access to care. Our electronic patient record system Evolve was critical to enable our teams deliver virtual outpatient clinics as it meant that copies of scanned patient charts were readily available for staff to access.”

Dr Yvonne Smyth, Consultant Cardiologist at University Hospital Galway added, “The cardiology outpatient service in University Hospital Galway is an extremely busy one; we see 9,500 patients each year. Prior to the onset on COVID-19 this involved up to seven clinics per week, with up to 50 patients attending each clinic. From the middle of March this year, as the rate of COVID-19 in Ireland rapidly increased, it quickly became clear that it would not be possible to run our cardiology outpatient clinics as we traditionally had. In addition to the unacceptable risk of having large numbers of patients waiting in close proximity, we were also very conscious of the profile of our cardiology patients, many of whom were older and had other underlying health conditions that made it necessary for them to cocoon. Some of our patients require the support of a family member or friend to physically attend their appointment, further increasing the number of people at the clinic.

“All of these issues made it particularly important for us to quickly find an alternative way of delivering our outpatient cardiology service. We began initially with telephone consultations and later included video consults; to date we have delivered 3,800 virtual cardiology outpatient appointments. All of our patients adapted quickly to the technology and found the opportunity to link with us, despite COVID-19, very reassuring.

“Of course, if we felt at any time that a patient needed to be seen in person, we made arrangements to do that and all the necessary infection prevention and control measures were taken. Our outpatient cardiac diagnostic service has resumed and patients attend in person for cardiac investigations including ECHO and stress testing.

“It is also important to note that emergency cardiology continued 24/7 throughout this period and we continue to urge patients not to delay seeking medical help if they experience chest pain or other symptoms of a heart attack.”

Ann Cosgrove, Chief Operations Officer, Saolta University Health Care Group added, “Hospitals across the Saolta Group have quickly adapted to using technology to deliver patient care. The deployment of this technology ensures patients can be seen in virtual clinics via video link, a key factor in reducing face to face appointments and in turn the possible spread of COVID-19 in the community. Video appointments allow us to provide quality care while keeping patients/service users and staff safe.”


The article above is specific to the following Saolta hospitals:: 
University Hospital Galway (UHG)