Clinical effectiveness of and family experience with telephone consultation in a regional pediatric neurosurgery center in the United Kingdom

William B. Lo FRCS(NeuroSurg), FEBNS1, Katie Herbert DipHE1, and Desiderio Rodrigues FRCS(SN)1
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  • 1 Department of Neurosurgery, Birmingham Children’s Hospital, Birmingham, West Midlands, United Kingdom
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OBJECTIVE

Pediatric neurosurgery outpatient consultation is conducted face-to-face (FTF) conventionally. Reasons for not using telemedicine include the perceived difficulty with obtaining a reliable history and an inability to perform a physical examination. However, FTF consultation can cause distress and inconvenience to the child and family. In 2018, the authors’ department piloted a clinical nurse specialist–led telephone consultation (TC) for follow-up appointments. This was extended to the routine neurosurgery clinics in 2020. In this study, the authors evaluate 1) the effectiveness of TC, 2) families’ experience with TC compared with traditional FTF appointments, and 3) the factors associated with their preferences.

METHODS

In this prospective study using a survey methodology, TCs carried out by 2 consultant neurosurgeons and 1 nurse specialist over 8 weeks were evaluated. Based on clinical background, each patient was assigned to a TC or FTF appointment. Clinical and surgical details and home postal code were recorded. At the end of each TC, the clinician recorded whether the child required an FTF appointment within 3 months. In addition, patients/families answered 1) how the current TC compared with FTF consultation, and 2) their preference of TC or FTF for the next consultation.

RESULTS

A total of 114 TCs were included. No child required an FTF appointment within 3 months. Overall, compared with an FTF appointment, the TC was the “same/better/much better” for 101 families (89%), and “worse/much worse” for 13 (11%). Two-thirds of families preferred the next appointment to be a TC. Families attending a TC for new appointments preferred the next appointment to be FTF compared with those attending a follow-up TC (6/8 [75%] vs 31/106 [29%], p = 0.006). A high rating of the current TC was associated with a preference for a TC as the next appointment (p < 0.0001). Families preferring TC over FTF lived farther from the hospital (mean 38 vs 27 km) (p = 0.029).

CONCLUSIONS

From the clinicians’ perspective, TC is adequate in appropriately selected patients as either the primary mode of consultation or as a triage system. From a service users’ perspective, the majority of families felt that the appointment was the same/better than traditional FTF appointments. The findings suggested that 1) new patients should be offered FTF appointments; 2) follow-up TCs should be offered to families when possible; and 3) clinicians should develop their skills in conducting TCs. The authors’ results have led to a modification of our algorithm in delivering traditional outpatient service and telemedicine with telephone.

ABBREVIATIONS

CNS = clinical nurse specialist; FTF = face-to-face; TC = telephone consultation; WRC = Ward Review Clinic.

Image from Mavridis et al. (pp 404–415).

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