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  • Lloyd Price

'Virtual Accident & Emergency' : Scotland at the forefront of HealthTech Innovation



Exec Summary:


Scotland has been at the forefront of innovation in healthcare with its "Virtual Accident & Emergency" (A&E) service, also known as the Flow Navigation Centre. Launched in December 2020, this service offers patients experiencing urgent, non-life-threatening conditions an alternative to visiting a traditional A&E department.


Here's how it works:


  • Patients call NHS 24, the national health service helpline, on 111. Trained professionals assess the situation and determine if a virtual consultation might be suitable.

  • If appropriate, patients connect with healthcare professionals via video or phone call. This team, comprised of emergency care nurses and medics, provides consultations similar to those in a physical A&E.

  • Based on the assessment, patients receive various options:

  • Treatment and advice at home: Nearly half of patients are successfully treated remotely, avoiding unnecessary trips to the hospital.

  • Referral to a Minor Injuries Unit: This option allows patients to receive appropriate care closer to home, potentially avoiding long waits in busy A&E departments..

  • Direction to the A&E department: If deemed necessary, patients are guided to the most suitable physical A&E location.


The Virtual A&E service has demonstrated several benefits:


  • Reduced pressure on traditional A&E departments: By diverting suitable cases, the service frees up resources for critical emergencies.

  • Convenience for patients: Patients can access care from the comfort of their homes, saving them time and potential discomfort associated with lengthy A&E waits.

  • High patient satisfaction: Surveys indicate positive feedback from patients who appreciate the ease and effectiveness of the service.


Overall, Scotland's virtual A&E program serves as an example of how technology can be leveraged to improve healthcare access and efficiency.


Growth and M&A for Healthcare Technology companies


Healthcare Technology Thought Leadership from Nelson Advisors – Market Insights, Analysis & Predictions. Visit https://www.healthcare.digital 


HealthTech Corporate Development - Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth & Strategy services for Founders, Owners and Investors. Email lloyd@nelsonadvisors.co.uk  


HealthTech M&A Newsletter from Nelson Advisors - HealthTech, Health IT, Digital Health Insights and Analysis. Subscribe Today! https://lnkd.in/e5hTp_xb 


HealthTech Corporate Development and M&A - Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth & Strategy services for companies in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Visit www.nelsonadvisors.co.uk  




NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Flow Navigation Centre (FNC)


Almost all patients who sought help through a virtual A&E service would use it again if they needed advice, care or support with their health, a survey has revealed. 


NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde’s Flow Navigation Centre (FNC) provides direct access to emergency care for those who think they might need to go to A&E, but do not have a life-threatening condition. 


Patients can access the service through NHS 24 by dialling 111, and they will be given a video or telephone consultation with a nurse or doctor from the comfort of their own home rather than having to travel to hospital and wait to be seen.


If an in-person exam or treatment is required, they will be given a scheduled appointment at a Minor Injuries Unit (MIU), other appropriate specialist service, or a planned arrival time at A&E if this is the right service to access. 


An automated patient survey asks FNC users for their views immediately after they’ve contacted the service. 


Over the past year, 4,226 patients responded to the survey, with 98 per cent saying they would use the service again if they needed advice, care or support with their health. 


The most common reason for contacting the FNC, according to those who responded, was injury (95 per cent of cases).


The virtual A&E was used by more than 20,000 people last year, with less than a fifth going on to attend a physical emergency department.  



Global Virtual A&E Success


While Scotland's virtual A&E program is a notable success story, similar initiatives are being explored and implemented around the world, with varying levels of adoption and success:


Countries actively implementing virtual A&E services:


  • Australia: Several states offer virtual emergency care services, often referred to as "virtual ED" or "after-hours telehealth." These services cater to urgent, non-life-threatening conditions, mirroring the Scottish model.

  • Canada: Some provinces, like Ontario, offer virtual urgent care clinics through telehealth platforms. These clinics are not directly linked to emergency departments but offer convenient access to healthcare professionals for non-emergency needs.

  • United States: Various states have implemented pilot programs or individual hospitals offer virtual emergency care options. However, widespread adoption faces challenges related to reimbursement models and regulatory hurdles.

Challenges and considerations for wider adoption:


  • Technology access and literacy: Ensuring equitable access to the technology required for virtual consultations is crucial to avoid exacerbating existing healthcare disparities.

  • Data security and privacy: Robust security measures are essential to ensure patient confidentiality and trust in the system.

  • Regulatory frameworks: Clear regulations and guidelines are needed to ensure the appropriate use and quality of virtual A&E services.

Overall, the concept of virtual A&E holds promise for improving healthcare access and efficiency globally. However, successful implementation requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure equitable access, patient safety, and long-term sustainability.



Future of  Virtual Accident & Emergency (A&E) services


The future of Virtual Accident & Emergency (A&E) services is promising, with potential for increased adoption, advanced technology integration, and evolving service models:


Increased adoption:


  • Wider geographical reach: As models prove successful, we can expect expansion beyond pioneering countries to regions with similar needs and technological capabilities.

  • Integration with existing healthcare systems: Virtual A&E services are likely to become seamlessly integrated within national healthcare systems, offering patients a convenient and readily accessible option alongside traditional A&E departments.

Advanced technology integration:


  • Artificial intelligence (AI)-powered triage and assessment: AI could play a role in triaging patients, prioritizing cases, and even offering preliminary symptom analysis, further streamlining the virtual A&E experience.

  • Remote diagnostics and monitoring: Advanced wearable technology and remote diagnostic tools could enable real-time vitals monitoring and data collection during virtual consultations, providing healthcare professionals with additional information to guide their decisions.

  • Virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR): These technologies could be used to enhance the virtual consultation experience, allowing for more detailed assessments, providing remote visual assistance to first responders, and potentially even offering virtual training simulations for healthcare professionals.

Evolving service models:


  • Expansion of service offerings: Virtual A&E services might encompass a broader range of urgent but non-life-threatening conditions, potentially including mental health consultations and follow-up care for chronic conditions.

  • Collaboration with other emergency services: Integration with ambulance services and first responders could allow for remote consultations and guidance during emergency situations, potentially improving initial care and optimising use of resources.

Challenges to address:


  • Addressing the digital divide: Ensuring equitable access to technology and digital literacy remains crucial to avoid disadvantaging certain demographics.

  • Maintaining patient safety and trust: Robust data security measures, clear ethical guidelines, and ongoing research are essential to ensure patient safety and build trust in the virtual A&E system.

  • Regulatory frameworks and reimbursement models: Establishing clear regulations and standardized reimbursement models will be critical for wider adoption and long-term sustainability.


Overall, the future of Virtual A&E services is bright, with the potential to transform how we access and receive emergency care. Addressing the challenges and embracing advancements in technology hold the key to unlocking the full potential of this innovative approach to healthcare delivery.


Growth and M&A for Healthcare Technology companies


Healthcare Technology Thought Leadership from Nelson Advisors – Market Insights, Analysis & Predictions. Visit https://www.healthcare.digital 


HealthTech Corporate Development - Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth & Strategy services for Founders, Owners and Investors. Email lloyd@nelsonadvisors.co.uk  


HealthTech M&A Newsletter from Nelson Advisors - HealthTech, Health IT, Digital Health Insights and Analysis. Subscribe Today! https://lnkd.in/e5hTp_xb 


HealthTech Corporate Development and M&A - Buy Side, Sell Side, Growth & Strategy services for companies in Europe, Middle East and Africa. Visit www.nelsonadvisors.co.uk  






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