Near Me saves 2.4 million travel miles in Lanarkshire
Video conferencing technology which links patients to health and social care staff has saved a possible 2.4 million travel miles in Lanarkshire alone last year.
The gargantuan total, generated in Lanarkshire alone, is equivalent to circumnavigating the earth – almost 100 times.
Lanarkshire's award-wining Technology Enabled Care (TEC) team rapidly scaled up the technology, known as Near Me, in the emergency response to the pandemic.
It has been driven by one clear objective – to keep people safe.
"These figures are significant as they underline just how far we've come in the last year,” said Kirsty Duguid, Lanarkshire TEC's project team manager.
“Near Me technology allows health and social care providers to offer secure video call access to their services as part of their day-to-day work.
“Instead of travelling to their appointment, patients or service users enter an online waiting area from their computer, smartphone or tablet. The service is notified when they arrive and a health or social care provider joins the virtual consultation.”
At the turn of 2020, following successful trials, Near Me was in the formative stages of a wider roll-out to various primary, community and hospital care settings.
However, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the scale up was accelerated as part of a robust emergency response. From just 75 consultations in February 2020, Near Me use has grown to more than 86,000 virtual consultations since March 2020.
Research, led by the Scottish Government's Technology Enabled Care programme, has found that, on average, a Near Me consultation saves 28 miles of travel for a patient in Scotland – based on a return trip to and from a health and care setting.
That means 2,408,000 miles have potentially been saved in Lanarkshire. Factoring in the circumference of the globe, being 24,901 miles, it equates to a mind-spinning 96.7 trips around the planet – as the crow flies.
Kirsty added: "Throughout the Covid pandemic, we have had to change how we deliver services a nd clearly many people wouldn't have been travelling to appointments due to restrictions.
"Near Me, however, has enabled us to securely and efficiently continue with service delivery.
"As our services recover and we carefully move out of the pandemic going forward, this infrastructure will remain. In short, Near Me will still be a choice people can make, if convenient for them and it meets their health and well-being needs without the need to travel.”
The TEC service is hosted by South Lanarkshire Health and Social Care Partnership (HSCP).
The HSCP's chief officer, Val de Souza, said: "The accelerated scale up of Near Me provision has been a key feature of our response to Covid-19 and its success is testament to many partners working together. These figures underline the power of that collective approach.
"Technology like this is supporting people to manage their health and wellbeing, both safely and conveniently.
"This is not only reducing pressure on the health and social care system but the cumulative travel saving will be helpful to the environment."