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.

The Rowcroft care teams are finding their video platform 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,” said Dr Gill Horne, Rowcroft’s director of patient care.

“It 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 video success has shaped Rowcroft’s decision to continue conducting video consultations into the future.

Dr Horne said: “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 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,” said Sarah Baker, one of Rowcroft’s community nurse specialists.