Over the last year, the way many of us work, socialise and carry our daily activities changed beyond recognition due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For NRC Medical Experts, disruption to both the NHS and the legal system meant that to continue supporting legal teams, patients and clinical colleagues, we had to adopt new ways of working. To successfully continue our medico-legal practice whilst also striving to protect patients and our colleagues, we adopted new practices – some of which have become highly efficient new ways of working.
NRC Medical Expert Dr David Abankwa is a Consultant in Rehabilitation Medicine based at Swansea Bay University Health Board. A founding member of NRC Medical Experts, since March 2020, David has undertaken many virtual assessments and speaks highly of the remote assessment process and its appropriateness for many, but not all, cases.
For David, who lives and works in South Wales, a planned trip to visit a patient in Ireland was cancelled in March 2020 as the UK went into lockdown. This trip, no longer possible, became his first virtual consultation. Working with the patient’s wife to arrange the details, David met with the patient via Zoom.
“During the first consultation I carried out remotely, it became clear that in many ways, this option was a very good one. For people who have experienced a brain injury, a hugely important part of their experience is understanding their story and how their injury has impacted their recovery, daily life, and family situation.
I was able to have a good conversation with both my client and his wife and carry out a comprehensive assessment of his presentation and needs.”
Over the year, as both professionals and patients became more adept at using technologies to communicate, technical difficulties became less frequent. David explains,
“In my experience, when people are not familiar or comfortable with using technology in the first instance, time and patience and some workarounds have meant that I have always been able to carry out the assessment.
For some assessments, this has meant switching to using a patient’s preferred secure video platform instead of mandating the use of Zoom, to working with relatives to ensure the patient has support to access the appointment.”
In addition to saving time in travel and time out of the working day, remote assessments can be booked to fit around the client and their family’s daily activities. David also highlights that remote working also provides efficiencies in other areas, but it’s crucial to remember that remote assessments are far from a one-size-fits-all solution.
“It’s not just about virtual consultations, of course – I’ve been part of some highly successful virtual counsel meetings over the last year, and I hope the Courts will agree that in relevant and appropriate cases, we can continue this way of working.
I hope to adopt a virtual pre-consultation approach when I resume face to face assessments. For most of my patients, I carry out a virtual appointment with them or a family member to fully understand the patient’s history in advance. This ensures that the face to face assessment can be dedicated to the clinical examination – which can only be done in person. This will save time in the clinical appointment, allowing me to see more people.
For some patients – such as those undergoing amputee rehabilitation – there can be no replacement for a physical examination.”
Top 5 tips for carrying out remote assessments
- Invest in a good webcam for your laptop, or if using a tablet or phone, a stand so you can take notes, gesture and observe easily.
- Ensure everyone is comfortable with the technology – whether iPad or tablet, laptop, phone – ensure clients can access video calling.
- Always use a secure video calling platform, and where possible – such as with Zoom – provide a password to access the call.
- Leave one to two hours for the consultation to account for any technical difficulties or other issues arising.
- Remember that in-person assessments will always be required for some clients, so use your remote time efficiently to collect case histories and other information to improve the efficiency of your face-to-face appointment.
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NRC Medical Experts provide face to face and virtual assessments, all supported by pre-instruction conversations – free, no-obligation chats where solicitors can discuss cases with our leading experts before making any decisions about instruction.
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