Mr Patsy McGlone (Mid Ulster): To ask the Minister of Health what assessment has been made of the increased application of telemedicine in order to maximise the use of existing spare capacity in certain disciplines of acute and chronic hospital medicine. [Priority Written]
Minister of Health: Remote monitoring services have been used by Trusts prior to the pandemic and active consideration is being given to increasing the use of such services.
Work had been undertaken pre-pandemic to consolidate learnings from a number of Trust pilots in different specialties in respect of the use of remote clinics / virtual consultations. These demonstrated that virtual clinics were feasible not only for review appointments, but also to assist in assessment and diagnosis processes, in the delivery of therapies remotely and to facilitate patient education.
As part of the pandemic response, Trusts have been testing different video conferencing systems to respond to patient needs on an ad-hoc short term basis and work is ongoing to enable the deployment of a virtual consultation platform that will meet clinical requirements across both acute and community settings both during the current pandemic and into the future.
We are continuing to assess where and how telemedicine could be deployed to further help with capacity management both during and after the current pandemic.