Virtual fracture assessment clinics improve patient experience and save the health service millions

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Virtual Fracture Assessment Clinics

A consultant-led virtual process now commonly used to manage fractures in patients is improving outcomes and providing a cost saving of over €22 million to the health service, according to the National Clinical Programme for Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery (NCPTOS).

From March 2020-October 2021, over 65,000 patients were assessed remotely through virtual fracture assessment clinics (vFACs). In analysis of the services during this time, it was found that the majority of these patients were discharged (63%), 36% required an onward referral and only 1% converted to surgery. This analysis concluded that the cost savings to the health service was over €22m.

Mr Paddy Kenny, Joint National Clinical Lead NCPTOS, at the recent virtual Fracture Assessment Clinic seminar held at RCSI highlighted the impact this service redesign has had on all 18 trauma sites where these clinics are now operational. He noted: “Virtual fracture assessment clinics were adopted early during the pandemic and are now part of clinical practice delivering safe, effective and efficient care to patients presenting with stable fractures. These clinics are multi-disciplinary in nature and are led by a consultant orthopaedic surgeon.”

Virtual fracture assessment clinics have been identified by the HSE as a safe patient-centred, efficient and cost-effective service that can assist in enabling patients to be assessed in a timely manner and in line with international best practice standards. The virtual fracture assessment clinics are a proven method of ensuring that only patients who require ‘in-person’ appointments are booked to attend the hospital’s fracture clinic, thus improving the experience for patients and optimising hospital resources. 

In an opening address to a recent seminar on virtual fracture assessment clinics, Dr Colm Henry, HSE Chief Clinical Officer, said: “Remote consultations now constitute a significant way in which our services are delivered with the use of both video and audio enabled care, remote monitoring and online supports and therapies both in acute and community services. Both the HSE and the Department of Health recognise the value of this service redesign with its inclusion in the HSE National Service Plan 2022.”

Led by Mr David Moore and Mr Paddy Kenny as joint national clinical leads, the National Clinical Programme for Trauma and Orthopaedic Surgery is a joint RCSI and HSE initiative aimed at improving and standardising the quality of care, improving access for patients, and providing a framework for the HSE, hospital managers, clinicians and the multidisciplinary teams caring for trauma and orthopaedic patients.