The new Virtual Hub on the first floor of the hospital’s Day Treatment Centre building will feature 12 fully-equipped, soundproofed booths, making it easier than ever for patients to attend appointments remotely via video conferencing or phone call.
Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Medical Director Dr Gerry Skailes said: “We are among the first hospital trusts in the country to invest in this kind of telemedicine facility, and we think this will bring significant benefits to patients and staff.
“Although use of video calls has become a daily feature of life during the last year, we think it will be here to stay even when social distancing measures are completely lifted.
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“Video clinics offer lots of benefits to patients, especially the convenience of reducing travel and waiting time.
“This exciting development at Royal Preston Hospital should mean it is easier than ever for our clinicians to offer this service to our patients.”
The Virtual Suite is due to open in late June, and will also offer the option of conducting clinics by phone.
Hospital bosses have stressed that this technology will not replace face-to-face appointments, but is instead another option available to clinicians and patients.
A Trust spokesman said: "The new telemedicine virtual suite will support how we best manage our outpatient activity ensuring that we continue to provide face-to-face appointments for our patients and offering state-of-the-art facilities to deliver virtual consultations via video and telephone.
"The new telemedicine virtual suite can be used by clinicians from all specialties. The system supports one-to-one consultations or allows patients to meet with multiple clinicians at the same time."
Consultant Nephrologist Prof Alex Woywodt says both he and his patients have benefitted from using video clinics during the last year.
He said: “I’ve always been interested in technology and its use in medicine, so I volunteered to be one of the first users of video clinics in the Trust.
“It’s been fantastic and I wouldn’t know how to make my clinical role work without video clinics any more.
“Patients took a bit of time to get used to it, as with all new things, but now the feedback is really very good. I think the patients like the fact that not only can I see them, they can see me.
"I know my patients quite well, so the fact they can see their trusted doctor is an advantage that telephone clinics can’t provide.”
The news has been cautiously welcomed by patients' groups.
Rachel Power, chief executive of the Patients Association, said: “Patients have told us very clearly during the pandemic that most of the remote appointments they have experienced were by phone rather than more modern methods, and that they most commonly did not find them as good as in-person appointments.
"However, some patients valued the convenience of them highly. More widespread use of outpatient video calls may therefore be welcome for some patients, provided that those who prefer to attend in-person can still do so.”
Outpatients of Royal Preston Hospital and Chorley and South Ribble Hospital who have been offered a phone clinic but would prefer to be seen via video can speak with their clinician or call the Outpatient Call Centre on (01772) 524555.