The impact of digitisation of a virtual fracture clinic on referral quality, outcomes and assessment times

Benjamin M Sephton, Hannah Morley, Piyush Mahapatra, Michael Shenouda, Mustafa Al-Yaseen, Darryl E Bernstein, George Cross, Daniel E Dalili, Amrit Gurung, Atul Kamat, Andrew J Kuc, Aisha R Mohammed, Mehreen Paraouty, Amsanaa Ponniah, Ben Sluckis, Krisztian Deierl
European Journal of Trauma and Emergency Surgery: Official Publication of the European Trauma Society 2021 April 9

BACKGROUND: Virtual fracture clinics (VFCs) have become widely adopted, aiming to improve efficiency, standardise patient care and reduce clinic appointments for injuries that can be managed conservatively. A variety of means exist to manage VFC referrals and assessment, including paper-based and digital methods. This study assesses VFC referral quality and outcomes before and after implementation of a digital VFC referral and management system.

METHODS: A retrospective analysis was conducted of all VFC referrals and assessments from July 2017-March 2020 in a large UK district general hospital. All referrals and assessments were analysed for quality and completeness of referral information, grade of assessor, outcome of assessment, referral-to-assessment time, and assessment-to-surgery time (for those requiring operative management).

RESULTS: 3038 paper and 9,228 digital referrals were analysed by 2 separate reviewers. Quality and completeness of referral information showed significant improvement in 11 predetermined key data points with the digital referral system (p < 0.001). Date and mechanism of injury were the most commonly missing data criteria (67.5% and 68.2%, respectively) with paper referrals. Significant improvements were noted in the proportion of Consultant delivered VFC assessments (84.2% vs 71.0%; p < 0.001), VFC discharge rate (20.8% vs 13.1%; p < 0.001) and patients recalled for urgent review (6.2% vs 0.8%; p < 0.001) with digital referrals. Mean referral-to-assessment (31.2 vs 49.9 h; p < 0.001) and assessment-to-surgery (9.2 vs 13.0 days; p = 0.01) times also reduced significantly with referral digitisation.

CONCLUSION: Improvements in virtual referral quality and completeness directly lead to facilitation of more thorough, detailed and appropriate virtual assessments; improving timely decision-making, reducing unnecessary appointments, and permitting better prioritisation of workload and earlier surgery for patients requiring operative treatment. Purpose-built digital solutions are an excellent means of achieving these aims.

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