Mr Ajith George is revolutionising patient care in the ENT Department at University Hospitals of North Midlands, by utilising a smartphone gadget to optimise efficiency and performance.
The device, conceived in 2012, enables GPs to attach an endoscope to an Apple device allowing them to take photographs of what they see when looking in a patient's ear, nose or throat.
The 'endoscope-i' comes with an app that changes a smartphone's camera settings to brighten and sharpen the picture, a hearing screen and also requires the GP to fill in a bullet-pointed history of the problem. The photographs, hearing result and history are then sent to an ENT Consultant, who makes a diagnosis and suggests a course of treatment within 24 hours.
Mr Ajith George, Consultant ENT Surgeon and co-founder of the technology, said: "Currently GPs or nursing practitioners will in a patient's ear and may struggle to interpret their findings because of outdated instruments such as a magnifying auroscope. Consequently, this also makes it difficult to record and share what they see if they wanted to make a referral into hospital. This then results in the creation of a 'New Patient' referral where the whole examination and consultation process is repeated at a cost of over £100 to the Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG).
"The technology was staring us in the face, there's a widely held belief that smartphones can be a solution to a lot of problems in healthcare and it made sense to create something that brought the two together. By attaching an endoscope (an instrument that offers a wider view of the ear) to an Apple device, a superior image of the ear can be easily captured, recorded and shared via a 'Telescopic referral'. These virtual electronic referrals result in a speedier specialist opinion without the patient ever having to come to the hospital outpatient department. A standard clinic over 4 hours may only result in 15 patients being seen but up to 80 Telescopic Referrals can be dealt with in a similar time. The cost of this virtual consultation is less than £30 to the CCG so makes a lot of sense financially to the health economy. Essentially, it is a superior service for a reduced cost"
Following the success of the technology at UHNM for documenting endoscopic images of examinations in the Ear, Nose and Throat department, the device will now be used in 14 PCT practices in Stoke and Staffordshire between September 2016 and March 2017. Work is also on going to see how hospital consultants would factor in these referrals into their weekly sessions