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Virtual consultations: the new norm for cardiology services

Virtual consultations are here to stay for cardiology services, according to a new report by the British Cardiovascular Society.

The report notes how in a short space of time, both primary and secondary outpatient care has become largely virtual in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Moreover, as services begin to re-start, the need for separate COVID-19 positive and COVID-free facilities, will result in a reduction in the productivity of diagnostics such as echocardiography, catheter lab sessions and face-to-face clinics. It is anticipated that cardiology referrals from primary care will now occur electronically via a single triage portal using agreed local protocols for any advice on referrals, investigations and the management of common conditions.

The report also recognises the need to make greater use of the skills of the wider heart team including specialist nurses and pharmacists and cardiac physiologists, in running virtual and face-to-face clinics. The move to a digital platform will enable patients to be prepared in advance, for example, by ensuring that they have relevant information readily available for the consultation, for example, current medication.

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The report acknowledges the requirement for face-to-face consultations to examine patients with complex heart needs and how digital technology provides an opportunity for patient education, for example, through webinars from professional societies and patient groups.

The report concludes that these changes will require an investment in IT infrastructure and diagnostic capacity and a recognition that NHS clinical staff will need to organise their time in different ways.

British Cardiovascular Society. The future of cardiology.