Telemedicine revolutionises surgical care at London hospital

First deployment of Polycom Telemed System marks new era

Telemedicine is being used to enable consultants to view operations without having to visit the theatre

Telemedicine is being expanded in the UK with the first deployment of an innovation that enables surgeons to oversee life-saving operations from anywhere within a hospital.

Medics at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital recently used the Polycom Telemed System during a heart operation on a teenage girl.

The patient underwent surgery to repair two faulty heart valves. Traditionally, after this routine-but-complex operation a cardiac consultant would have to be called away from their duties elsewhere in the hospital and would have to walk to the theatre and scrub up in a surgical gown before confirming that the patient could be taken to intensive care to begin their recovery.

The Telemed system allows us to get on with other jobs. I’m never more than two minutes away from one of the monitors. Rather than running up and down to theatres, we can stay in one place

With up to 500 such surgical procedures being performed at the Evelina alone every year, this was a time-consuming task and often disrupts surgeons’ other duties.

But during the recent operation, Dr John Simpson used the Telemed system to monitor the patient from his office and was able to immediately view the completed surgery, talk directly to the surgeon in charge, and give the all clear for the 15-year-old to leave the theatre.

The first deployment of this technology has been used in the UK, it marks the start of a new approach to care which will save time and avoid costly delays, freeing up theatre time.

The system is based on business video conferencing technology and involves the use of a portable ultrasound cart. It enables the surgical team to place a probe on a patient’s heart and scan images to six monitors placed strategically around the hospital. The consultant can then view exactly the same pictures as the team in the theatre.

Speaking about the breakthrough, Dr Simpson, the hospital’s director of paediatric echocardiography, said: “It is a much more efficient system. In the vast majority of cases the surgical results are fine, but occasionally we need to make adjustments.

“We need to see a scan and in the past that’s always been done in the operating theatre. Viewing the scan usually takes no more than five minutes, but it was the preparation that was very time consuming.”

In a hospital the size of the Evelina, the walk to the operating theatre can take 10 minutes.

In a busy hospital every consultant is committed for every minute of the day

But, since it was introduced three months ago the new system has been used in almost 50 heart operations and it is estimated that it will save 1,300 consultant hours every year.

Dr Gareth Morgan, a consultant paediatric cardiologist at the hospital, said: “In a busy hospital every consultant is committed for every minute of the day.

“The Telemed system allows us to get on with other jobs. I’m never more than two minutes away from one of the monitors. Rather than running up and down to theatres, we can stay in one place.”

The Evelina is also developing systems which link specialists in different parts of the country and in future remote diagnosis could become routine.

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