Patients with thyroid dysfunction require frequent clinic follow-up, but are often young and have difficulty taking time off work or college, leading to non-attendance and disruption to their treatment. The did not attend (DNA) rate of our endocrine clinic was 21.3%, of whom 44% comprised patients with thyroid disorders. Skype has already been used very successfully for follow-up in the Newham diabetes clinics for our young and ethnically diverse population. We wished to explore whether Skype consultations could be used safely for managing patients with thyroid dysfunction.
Aim: To undertake a pilot study to assess the feasibility of using Skype consultations for follow-up of patients with thyroid dysfunction.
Methods: A baseline assessment was made asking successive patients with thyroid dysfunction attending the endocrine clinic if they were familiar with Skype and would consider having Skype consultations. Patients were asked to complete questionnaires enquiring about patients cost of attending clinic (travel expenses, loss of earnings, etc.). Two patients were followed from entering to leaving the hospital for their appointment to obtain their journey time. Patients who agreed to Skype consultations completed a feedback questionnaire on the experience.
Results: A typical patients journey time attending the clinic was 1 h and 44 min, of which only 15 min maximum was spent with the physician. The average cost to the patient attending clinic was £45.80. 85% of patients surveyed were familiar with Skype and expressed interest in having Skype consultations. Thirteen patients had Skype follow-up appointments. Feedback has been very positive, with comments including easy to use, time and money saving, and better than telephone consultations. The average duration of a Skype appointment was 8.5 min compared to 13 min for a traditional face to face consultation.
Conclusion: Skype consultations for patients with thyroid disease are feasible, acceptable to patients, and potentially cost- saving.