Dr Hale has been working as a full-time GP in central Liverpool for 9 years, specialising in minor surgery. He recently began using the teledermatology pathway on the Cinapsis SmartReferrals platform to secure specialist advice on skin lesion cases.
We spoke to him about the challenges of delivering primary care in diverse urban communities, the importance of collaborative practice, and how and why he’s taking the lead on encouraging his colleagues to start using Cinapsis too.
You’ve been at Brownlow for nearly a decade now - what are the challenges and rewards of working in a busy city-centre practice?
I’ve actually worked at Brownlow for my whole GP career, and during my GP training too. We’re a huge practice, serving around 65,000 patients across 6 sites in the city.
The community that we serve is incredibly diverse, from university students to newly-arrived young professionals to elderly people who’ve lived here their whole lives. Our specialist service provides care to the city’s homeless population - including drug and alcohol support - and our translators are kept very busy helping us to support our non-English speaking patients.
It’s safe to say that I never have a dull day at work - I find the variety and unpredictability both rewarding and refreshing. I feel really lucky to be surrounded by excellent colleagues and partner service providers - we work very well together to ensure that primary care delivery runs smoothly and successfully here at Brownlow.
Collaborative care is something that we’re really passionate about at Cinapsis; was it on a hunt for solutions to streamline clinical collaboration that you first heard about our platform?
I think it’s important that, even when you’re already doing something really well in your practice, you’re still keeping an eye out for innovative ways to do it even better.
As a GP, having access to rapid advice and guidance really matters when it comes to getting my patients to the right source of treatment as quickly as possible. I’m always keen to embrace new ways of making this happen.
I first heard about Cinapsis just before I virtually attended the launch event for the Liverpool Teledermatology Service back in early spring this year. After watching the presentations and hearing about the impressive reductions in wait times for dermatology patients, I began to feel really enthusiastic about the benefits that the Smart Referrals platform could deliver to my patients and my workflows back at Brownlow. We were lucky enough to be within one of the trial areas for the tech, and so it was easy for me to start using the platform right away to assess and triage skin lesions.
So what has your experience of using Cinapsis been like so far? Have you noticed any stand-out benefits to your day-to-day work?
When I started using Cinapsis, I hoped that it would help me and my colleagues to reduce growing waiting lists, improve 2 week wait pathways and improve the accuracy of our referrals.
I’m pleased to say that these expectations have already been exceeded.
Cinapsis has definitely improved the pace and quality of my communication with colleagues in secondary care. I no longer have to wait months for letters to be sent back - I’ve received responses from dermatology consultants via Cinapsis in as little as 10 minutes!
Capturing dermatoscope images of skin lesions on a smartphone and having them automatically attach to advice and guidance or referral requests is a big game-changer too. It provides the consultant with the information they need to make an informed assessment, often making it possible for a diagnosis and treatment plan to be agreed on on the spot.
You’re now helping your colleagues at Brownlow and in secondary care to get onboard and start using Cinapsis. What motivated you to pursue this?
Telemedicine is going to play an increasingly large part in healthcare delivery as we move through this decade, so now is the time that clinicians need to start getting to grips with digital care delivery and digital advice and guidance tools.
I recognise that the more clinicians start using Cinapsis, the more hours of clinical time can be saved and the more the benefits to patients will be multiplied. There are Two Week Wait referral-to-treatment targets for skin cancer that need to be met, and I believe that Cinapsis is going to play a big part in helping to make this happen.
I also think the platform has a powerful educational benefit for me and my colleagues too. We’re essentially being handed a digital channel along which expert knowledge can flow from dermatology consultants to primary care teams. The consultants often explain why they’ve made a certain decision about a patient, and this is information that we, as GPs, can apply in the future when we encounter similar cases.
Can you share some tips that other Cinapsis users can use to support their colleagues to onboard with Cinapsis?
I felt pretty confident that once I'd explained all the advantages and my own personal experience, my colleagues would also be keen to onboard and start using Cinapsis (which they were).
To make the early stages of adoption easier, I created a presentation and delivered it at one of our regular clinical meetings. During the session, I outlined all of the benefits of teledermatology (for clinicians and patients), and explained how simple and safe the platform was to use.
I also created and shared a series of instructional videos covering how to effectively use the Smart referrals platform, including how to attach the dermatoscope to a smartphone, how to take photos, how to file a case, and what to do when you receive a response from secondary care.
Finally, I shared clear instructions on how my colleagues could sign up and create an account on the Cinapsis platform, offering to answer their questions or provide help if necessary. Soon everyone was ready to start using the tech confidently and effectively.
Sounds like your colleagues are lucky to have you, Dr Hale! Thanks for taking part in Conversations with Clinicians, and we’re already looking forward to catching up with you again soon.