Online physio for patients with breathing problems

Monday 22nd July 2019

The first virtual consultation clinic in Scotland for patients receiving respiratory physiotherapy has begun operating.  

Remote video consultations mean people in north east Glasgow can now ‘attend’ appointments online rather than travel to attend hospital clinics.

Accessing the service through an app from a phone, PC or tablet allows people to remain at home or work while getting support for their conditions.

With more people in the west of Scotland experiencing respiratory problems the new way of working is helping patients manage conditions such as inducible laryngeal obstruction, a group of disorders previously called vocal cord dysfunction, and bronchiectasis.

Milngavie resident, Helen McDougall, has been an outpatient with the respiratory physiotherapy service for 16 years.

Being a patient of this service has changed my life,” she says. “I had just retired from my job as a primary school head teacher and wasn’t in good health. Over the last 16 years I’ve been working with Pamela and thanks to her I now have a different lifestyle. There aren’t many people who can say they’re fitter at 76 than at 60!

When Pamela first mentioned the virtual clinics I hoped I’d be able to work the technology. However, it’s so well set out that I was able to easily follow it.

I was initially worried about missing face-to-face contact as I’d built up a lot of trust with Pamela. The trust is still there over the virtual clinic as I’m still speaking to the same person and I still feel very good.

I would recommend other people have their appointments this way. I had back surgery last year and couldn’t drive so this facility was wonderful. They’re trying to reach more people by doing this and I would recommend it to anyone.

Respiratory problems are growing the West of Scotland and it’s great to get a service like this.”

The system also allows other family members to join the consultation using their own device from a different location.

Introduced by the respiratory physiotherapy outpatient service, the new way of working is designed to meet a 25% rise in patient numbers over the last five years.

Pamela Vaughn, advanced clinical physiotherapist in respiratory medicine at NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde, said:

“Video consultations mean we can see around 25-30% more patients compared to face-to-face appointments.

“These video consultations enable us to see more patients for check-ups or routine appointments without them having to come to us.”

Following positive patient feedback and an increase in consultations, funding for the project provided by the Scottish Government’s technology enabled care fund has been extended from the original three-month period.

People wait in virtual waiting rooms and join us from their home, work and even cafes,” explains Ms Vaughn.

“One of the key benefits for patients is that family members can also take part either together or remotely. It’s not unusual for a family member who lives elsewhere in the country or abroad to join in consultations.

“This new approach is part of the expanding use of video consultations across hospital and community services in NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde.

“It’s something we’re now working to roll out across the rest of the Board area to enable us to see as many patients as possible. This means we can see patients within timelines set out by National guidelines, we struggled before due to the demand on our service.

“We only offer the service to patients who we feel are suitable and qualitative feedback from them is positive.

“Patients tell us they feel they are achieving the same outcome as face-to-face consultations. Feedback shows that patients find the system easy to use and have an appetite to use the system for future appointments.

“One key point is that they find remote consultation more convenient and it takes less time out of their day. It also means staff can deliver the service from anywhere and aren’t tied to any one NHSGGC facility.”