Telemedicine provider Consultant Connect has helped more than 400,000 patients avoid unnecessary trips to hospital in 2023 through calls and messages.

In 2023, healthcare staff placed 400,000 calls and sent one million photos through Consultant Connect. The service allows clinicians to contact specialist consultants across a range of departments, streamlining NHS communications.

Consultant Connect’s technology provides NHS clinicians across the UK, such as GPs and paramedics, with expert advice and guidance from consultants. This guidance ensures patients receive the appropriate care and are only referred to hospital when absolutely necessary, reducing wait times for everyone.

Consultant Connect records the outcomes of calls placed through the service and found that more than half (51 per cent) of calls to elective and acute care specialties avoided unnecessary hospital visits.

In particular, the use of the technology has rapidly expanded across dermatology over the last year. Consultant Connect’s PhotoSAF technology allows clinicians to share patient images for review with consultants. It is now the UK’s most widely used teledermatology platform and led to a hospital avoidance in 59 per cent of cases.

Before Consultant Connect, healthcare professionals would have to call the switchboard to speak to either a named consultant or a department. Often calls would go unanswered or clinicians would have to wait for specialists to call back, which can sometimes take hours.

Since Consultant Connect was established in 2015, 1.4 million calls have been placed and two million photos have been taken.

Dr Emamoke Ubogu, a GP in Birmingham and an early adopter of Consultant Connect, said: “As a GP, our training in dermatology is quite limited. It’s likely we’ll see more use of digital tools in dermatology, especially taking photos and sending them to specialists. The specialist often only needs to see photos in addition to the medical history in order to make a diagnosis.

“Consultant Connect has a variety of features on the app. In particular, there is a feature which allows me to bring up a patient’s details and save any referrals using their NHS number, which is very helpful. Uploaded photos are also saved in the patient’s record. I think if GPs knew there was a tool that would help save time, they would be willing to adopt the tool.”

Jonathan Patrick, CEO of Consultant Connect, said: “Long waiting times caused by unnecessary hospital visits are a huge drain on the NHS. Our technology has gone a long way in the battle to resolve this, and we’re proud that more than half of calls made using our technology helped to avoid unnecessary hospital visits for over 400,000 patients.

“Our service now covers more than half the NHS, including across all of Wales. We’re seeing much better outcomes for patients and for the NHS as well. It saves money not having to deliver referrals that aren’t necessary and it frees up the clinicians’ time to see the patients who actually need to be in hospital. We’re determined to continue working towards clearing waiting lists across the country.”