A team of specialist gastroenterology community dieticians in Somerset used webinars to increase patient understanding of Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS). Allied Health Professions Digital Practice award winner Marianne Williams explains why this technology is beneficial to both healthcare professionals and patients.
As part of the NHS England elective care 100 Day Challenge programme in 2017, our Somerset-based team of specialist gastroenterology community NHS dietitians set up a number of webinars for patients. The aim was to improve patient education and reduce the burden on both primary and secondary care.
We chose patients with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) as the pilot cohort. This chronic and debilitating condition is estimated as affecting 10-20% of the UK population and therefore has considerable financial implications. Using up significant amounts of clinical time in both primary and secondary care, in the UK it cost about £12 million per annum in 2012-2013.
For the first year, we ran webinars once a month at a set time through a webinar service. However, it soon became clear that patients wished to be able to access the webinars ‘on demand’, which allowed them to watch the information at a time and place of their choosing.
In response, our dietitian team uploaded the webinar recordings onto YouTube, routing them through our own bespoke website www.patientwebinars.co.uk. Now GPs and healthcare professionals simply needed to direct patients to the website, which not only supplied downloadable patient information but also handled all the administration, removing the need for extra admin staff time and associated costs.
Statistics for success
The IBS webinars were a huge success. More than 95% of patients said they would recommend them to friends. About 52% of patients rated their knowledge of their condition as "fair”, “good” or “excellent” before watching the webinar, compared to 96% after watching.
The biggest reason for watching given was ‘the ability to obtain accurate and reliable information directly from NHS specialists.’
Interestingly, the largest numbers of attendees came from the 65-74-year old age group. This underlined that age is not a barrier to this form of technology. The webinars also proved popular with GPs and consultants, who could safely direct patients to the webinars without the need for referral letters.
Given the pilot’s success, our team were soon approached by NHS departments from all over the UK wishing to replicate this model of care, which is suitable for many medical disciplines. Our achievement was also recognised with a number of industry awards.