Ajith George, consultant head and neck surgeon at University Hospitals of North Midlands NHS Trust and medical director at endoscope-I, looks at how a telescopic referral service is enabling Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) endoscopies to be undertaken in primary care by training nursing staff
endoscope-i's telescopic referral service is helping to diagnose people via ENT endoscopies carried out in community settings
Up until recently, if a patient went to the doctors with a persistent hoarse voice or throat pain they would be referred to the hospital for an endoscopic examination of their throat and voice box (larynx).
However, with the innovations happening in telehealth, remote diagnostics have demonstrated the potential to diagnose people more conveniently than we have traditionally in the past.
Now, with endoscope-i’s telescopic referral service, Ear, Nose and Throat (ENT) endoscopies can be undertaken in primary care by training nursing staff.
The endoscope-I adapter connects the camera of an iPhone directly to the high-quality optics of a fibreoptic endoscope, enabling the capture of a high-definition video in a bespoke app.
This video is then sent, along with the patient’s history, directly to an ENT consultant, who is able to review the information through an app and accurately diagnose and manage the patient remotely.
With the innovations happening in telehealth, remote diagnostics have demonstrated the potential to diagnose people more conveniently than we have traditionally in the past
This not only streamlines the process and bring specialised endoscopy to primary care settings, but also presents an opportunity to empower primary and community clinics to use connected technology.
This service enables trained healthcare practitioners within community and primary care settings to carry out these ENT endoscopies closer to patients – transforming what is typically an expensive diagnostic procedure into a streamlined process, using a cheaper mobile device.
The same technology, although with different endoscopes can also be used to examine and manage ear and nose conditions.
Faster cancer diagnosis is a key ambition of the NHS Long Term Plan and early diagnosis is pivotal to successful treatment.
But, for many patients who are afraid of the hospital setting, attending a clinic and having diagnostic procedures like an endoscopy can be scary and overwhelming.
If we look specifically at head and neck cancers, where the symptoms can often be vague and ambiguous, having remote diagnostic tools allows GPs and trained nurses to carry out a more-comprehensive assessment and send ENT high-definition images securely through the cloud to a head and neck consultant for review.
For many patients who are afraid of the hospital setting, attending a clinic and having diagnostic procedures like an endoscopy can be scary and overwhelming
This ensures the patient is in an environment that’s familiar to them and, most importantly, supports faster diagnosis as they get the best-possible opinion.
This approach can save ENT consultants time and make the process more efficient.
By reviewing low-risk patients using the remote telescopic referral pathway, head and neck consultants can focus on seeing high-risk patients face to face sooner.
It also serves to reduce pressures on secondary care and to provide an enhanced treatment path for the patient.
Local or regional empowerment will therefore be crucial for driving improvements to cancer survival rates.
And secure, reliable, and scalable connectivity will be central to supporting Rapid Diagnostic Centres and consultations that happen away from the hospital setting.
Providing patients with new digital treatment pathways is just as much down to innovation as it is about ensuring safe, secure, and reliable movement of data.
The endoscope-i application uses secure, on-demand access to the Health & Social Care Network (HSCN) through Cloud Gateway.
With access to faster network performance, HSCN connectivity gives healthcare organisations the ability to utilise and share information more reliably, flexibly, and efficiently. It also offers the security and flexibility needed to support applications and services, ultimately enabling the healthcare industry to continue to innovate and provide superior care.
Providing patients with new digital treatment pathways is just as much down to innovation as it is about ensuring safe, secure, and reliable movement of data
In this case, it makes it easier for GPs and trained nurses to carry out an endoscopy and send images and videos to skilled consultants for review.
The data is exactly where it needs to be for the consultants to analyse the imagery from the patient examinations and report back.
This allows them to work collaboratively and provides a solution that supports better patient outcomes, as well as facilitating mobile working.
Making the most of cloud-based applications and services can help meet new digital delivery demands and accelerate the use of technology to improve patient care. And this results in faster diagnosis and greater accessibility to specialist healthcare.
As technologies that rely on phone signal and 5G become more widely available, so does the need for exceptional connectivity.
Securely transferring patient data into a trust’s healthcare record not only enables the rapid sharing of information with primary care providers, but it also has the power to revolutionise the way healthcare is provided within the NHS in the coming years – moving towards a more real-time and connected way of working that accelerates treatment pathways and offers a patient-centric approach to care.