The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many changes to clinical practice, including the introduction of remote clinics. Those familiar with remote clinics have reported benefits to their use, such as patient satisfaction and cost benefits; however, ongoing challenges exist, including delivering optimal patient-centred care. As a tertiary paediatric surgery unit in the UK, completing remote clinics was a new experience for most of our surgical team. We completed a service evaluation early into the COVID-19 pandemic aiming to define and address issues when delivering remote clinics in paediatric surgery. Remote clinics were observed (telephone and video), with follow-up calls to families following the consultations.
Eight paediatric surgeons were observed during their remote clinics (telephone n = 6, video n = 2). Surgeons new to remote clinics felt their consultations took longer and were reluctant to discharge patients. The calls did not always occur at the appointed time, causing some upset by parents. Prescription provision and outpatient investigations led to some uncertainty within the surgical team. Families (n = 11) were called following their child’s appointment to determine how our remote clinics could be optimised. The parents all liked remote clinics, either as an intermediate until a face-to-face consultation or for continued care if appropriate.
Our findings, combined by discussions with relevant managers and departments, led to the introduction of recommendations for the surgical team. An information sheet was introduced for the families attending remote clinics, which encouraged them to take notes before and during their consultations.
There must be strong support from management and appropriate departments for successful integration of remote clinics. Surgical trainees and their training should be considered when implementing remote clinics. Our learning from the pandemic may support those considering integrating remote clinics in the future.