Video conferencing system allows cancer experts to spend more time with patients

The Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire (SWSH) Cancer Network is using video conferencing to enable senior medical staff to spend more time with patients.

The Surrey, West Sussex and Hampshire (SWSH) Cancer Network is using video conferencing to enable senior medical staff to spend more time with patients.

The network, which is the centre of cancer expertise for the three counties, has equipped its specialists with video conferencing facilities so that less time is spent travelling between meetings.

So far, 40 cancer specialists working at 14 sites have been equipped with the technology. The system has achieved the objective of reducing travelling times, and the specialists have subsequently been able to increase the number of patients being treated by the cancer network.

Since the release of the Calman-Hines best practice guidelines for cancer care, specialist doctors and nurses have had to meet to discuss each patient's treatment.

These multi-disciplinary meetings have improved patients' chances of recovery, but have reduced the time available for direct patient contact, as specialist medical staff travel between hospitals.

The SWSH Cancer Network has spent £330,000 on the video conferencing contract with Audio Visual Machines, which supplied and deployed video conferencing devices from manufacturer Polycom and ISDN lines for all 14 sites.

The contract includes the cost of maintaining the devices and the network for one year.

Specialist medical staff have been equipped with Polycom VSX 3000s in their offices. These 17-inch LCD monitors with built-in camera, microphone and speakers are also being used as PC monitors. 

Peter Hargreaves, chair of the SWSH Cancer Network and consultant in palliative medicine at the Macmillian Cancer Unit, King Edward VII Hospital, Midhurst,  said, "The main issue is the loss of time. Every government document has said we should be using modern technology to improve productive time."

Although the project has made the SWSH Cancer Network's hospitals more efficient, the video conferencing deployment will not count towards the NHS's Gershon efficiency targets.

The deployment improves productivity, but will not lead to spending reductions in cancer care because the SWSH cancer network is continuing to employ the same number of specialist cancer staff.

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