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The Significance of Virtual Clinics in the UK

The research conducted by Greenhalgh et al. (2016) mentioned that the provision of technology-supported consultation services to the patients had been found as the least partial solution to deal with complex care needs. Gentles, Lokker, and McKibbon (2010) stated that utilizing the latest technology also contributes to dealing with the challenges of an increasingly diverse population.

Choi et al. (2014) mentioned that advancements in technology have also positively influenced individuals’ lifespan suffering from comorbid illness, intellectual and developmental disabilities. Clarke et al. (2017) mentioned that analysing from the context of the UK, a considerable number of the population has been managing illness due to having high levels of confidence for dealing with chronic and comorbid illness.

Tsaousis et al. (2016) mentioned that the advancement in telecommunication has also benefited the informal care providers of individuals suffering from long-term illnesses. Gunn et al. (2018) mentioned that the National Information Board of the UK revealed the requirement to analyse the epidemiological and demographic trends, including the latest technology, despite traditional outpatient consultation.

Since the decades of the 1990s, the National Healthcare Services of the United Kingdom (UK) had focused on nurse-led clinics for meeting the needs and requirements of the patients (Shepherd et al., 2015). Analysing the efficacy of virtual clinics on the UK population’s health outcomes, the NHS has been focusing on increasing the number of virtual clinics.

The virtual clinics have been facilitating the General Practitioners, the consultants, as well as the specialist nurses for managing several outpatients at a time, for saving time, improving patient care, as well as for the provision of face to face appointments to the individuals who require consultation with the healthcare professionals.

Sechi et al. (2016) stated that establishing virtual clinics in the UK resulted in effective decision-making, consultation, and outcome analysis.  The establishment of virtual clinics in the UK has offered the potential advantage to the service user, saving the spared cost and travel inconvenience.

Besides, virtual clinics are also likely to facilitate the clinics by providing cost-effective care services to the service users. However, Kerr, Lamb were, and Hardavella  (2018) stated that establishing virtual clinics might be clinically risky and less acceptable for the service users or the service users’ family members.

The contribution of the latest technology in improving the general population’s quality of life has been highlighted by some authors (Baker and Bufka, 2011). Hjorth et al. (2018) stated that virtual environments have been providing safe and repeated activities that have been widely utilised in training and improving the skills of the intellectually disabled population.

Also, Corrigall et al. (2018) mentioned that virtual clinics also provide the clinical environment for the patients and the healthcare professionals for dealing virtually with medical complications. Virtual clinics possess the contribution of technology for improving the quality of healthcare services provided to patients.

On the contrary, Sechi et al. (2016) demonstrated that using technology for the generation of virtual reality is likely to contribute to the analysis of the patients’ clinical conditions for determining whether or not the patients require immediate consultation with the healthcare professionals.  Gunn et al. (2018) stated that the NHS has been emphasising the establishment and making further improvements within the virtual clinics for dealing with the potential complications created due to the outpatient appointments.

Kotecha et al. (2015) stated that analysing from the context of the UK outpatient clinics, despite providing a range of facilities, the service users are required to wait for a longer time duration within the Outpatient Departments (OPDs).

In this regard, Shaw et al. (2017) mentioned that the establishment of virtual clinics provides more accessible and cost-effective clinical care to the service users by replacing routine follow-up outpatient appointments with web-based consultations. The research conducted by Roberts et al. (2015) analyzed patients’ perceptions about the efficacy of virtual reality. The research outcomes revealed that the service users reported that virtual clinics are better than face-to-face appointments, saving time.

On the other hand, Kotecha et al. (2015) mentioned that the service users’ perceptions about virtual clinics further revealed that the establishment of virtual clinics saved them from unnecessary visits to the outpatient clinics and hospitals.  Besides, Botella et al. (2015) found that nurses and other healthcare professionals’ perceptions about the efficacy of the virtual clinics.

They found that virtual clinics cannot completely replace the clinics up to a certain extent. The establishment of these clinics assists healthcare professionals in decision-making, consulting, and carrying out outcome analysis. However, the research conducted by

Athanasopoulos and Athanasiou (2016) mentioned that providing care services to patients through virtual clinics increases the risk of acquiring false-positive results.  Specifically, virtual clinics might fail to provide clinical assistance to the patients requiring treatment for comorbid illness.

Impacts of Virtual Clinics on Health Inequalities

Arcaya, Arcaya, and Subramanian (2015) stated that the UK’s local and national healthcare authorities have been emphasizing the removal of health disparities within the UK; however, still, the number of individuals experiencing health disparities in the UK has not been reduced.  Shah et al. (2018) mentioned that the population’s health with special care needs has been a long-standing concern and has been cast within the framework of health disparities and inequalities.

Egan et al. (2016) stated that similar to the other countries, the population having special care needs within the UK has also increased. Therefore, the NHS has been contributing to minimizing the risk of health inequality experienced by these patients by utilising various strategies. The report presented by the Department of Health (2012) mentioned that the NHS possesses alignment with the Health and Social Care Act 2012 for reducing the risk of health inequality experienced by the UK population having special care needs.

The NHS has been involved in analysing the inequality gaps by considering the quality of primary care available for the general population and individuals with special care needs. The NHS also identified health inequalities within the UK by considering the waiting times within the OPDS, the emergency hospitalization, and the accessibility towards healthcare services.

The evidence reported a requirement to reduce waiting times to prevent premature and preventable deaths (Walters et al., 2018). In this regard, the establishment and management of virtual nurse-led screening clinics are considered proactive ways to provide equitable services for individuals with special care needs.

Within the UK, the virtual clinics for the population are managed by nursing professionals, contributing to minimizing the health inequalities within the UK in a number of ways (Gentles, Lokker, and McKibbon, 2010). The nurse-led virtual care clinics have not been only contributing to the development of skills and expertise of nurses; instead are also assisting the general population in accessing the healthcare services without waiting for a longer period (Sechi et al., 2016).

The nurse-led virtual clinics within the UK are most often established within and between the specialties; however, overall, these clinics allow the patients living with multiple comorbidities to readily access the clinical experts in case of clinical complications (Kotecha et al., 2018).

The establishment of virtual clinics within the UK has caused a significant reduction in mortality rates because the nurse-led virtual clinics provide recommendations to consult the physicians immediately. Marks and Sisirak (2017) mentioned that the nurses operating the virtual care clinics possess high levels of autonomy and make detailed care decisions related to the hospital admission, discharge, and referral of the patient to the specialized healthcare professionals.

In this regard, the evidence reported that establishing virtual clinics for individuals with special care needs is likely to significantly reduce healthcare inequalities experienced by these patients.

The Care-Related Requirements of Intellectual Disabled Population

Vilaseca et al. (2017) stated that advancements in medical technology and healthcare have significantly improved the survival rates of children suffering from serious medical complications. In this regard, globally, there is an increased prevalence of the population possessing complex health care needs and intellectual and developmental disabilities.

Emerson and Baines (2011) stated that the intellectually disabled population requires constant support from their informal care providers and other healthcare professionals to match the capabilities of these individuals with environmental demands.

The literature suggested that individuals with intellectual disabilities experience difficulties following the educational curriculum (Carulla et al., 2011). For this reason, technology-based virtual reality setups have been established for these individuals. Krahn, Walker, and Correa-De-Araujo (2015) stated that the intellectually disabled population requires the resources and strategies for promoting the development, education, interests, and personal well-being of these individuals.

In addition, Robertson et al.  (2011) stated that analysing the potential impacts of creating a virtual environment on the intellectual disabilities of patients, and the local and national healthcare departments have focused on the development of virtual clinics for dealing with these patients.

The research conducted by Rich et al. (2012) stated that the clinical requirements of the intellectually disabled population differ from one another, depending on the severity of a disability, as well as the clinical complications experienced by these patients. In addition, Emerson and Hatton (2014) mentioned that the national and local programs in most countries across the globe had been targeted towards individuals with disabilities and the informal care providers of these individuals.

Emerson (2011) also mentioned that the needs and requirements of individuals with intellectual disabilities kept on changing with the advancement in their lives. In some cases, these individuals experience continuous deterioration in their clinical symptoms. For this reason, intellectually disabled individuals require constant care and support for dealing with the factors resulting in deterioration within their healthcare (Scior, 2011).

Trepagnier et al. (2011) stated that individuals with an intellectual disability avoid social interactions; therefore, they also experience difficulty visiting healthcare clinics. In addition, Szeftel et al. (2012) also mentioned that depending on the nature of the comorbid illness, these individuals require special care and support for dealing with their illness. The medication taken for treating one condition is likely to result in the worsening of the other condition.

In this regard, the establishment of virtual clinics is likely to facilitate these individuals due to the constant follow-up of these individuals (Anderson et al., 2013).  Bouck et al. (2014) also mentioned that the virtual clinics for individuals with intellectual disabilities require support from the informal care providers of these patients for ascertaining the type and extent of support required by these individuals.

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The Impacts of Virtual Clinics on Patients with Intellectual Disabilities

Individuals living with intellectual disabilities are often in poor health due to chronic conditions, poor accessibility to preventative screening, and the lack of healthcare providers’ knowledge, impeding the delivery of quality healthcare (Anderson et al., 2013). Analyzing from the context of the UK, UK healthcare has strongly emphasized the availability of care services for individuals with intellectual disabilities.

The intellectually disabled individuals possess mental retardation possessing one or more significant sensory or motor impairment, requiring pervasive support (Emerson and Baines, 2011). In some cases, the physical and intellectual problems experienced by intellectually disabled individuals result in more severe impairments, including the restriction of movement, speech disorders, visual and hearing disorders, and difficulty in learning and understanding (Vissers, Gilissen, and Veltman, 2016).

The intellectually disabled individuals are also at an increased risk of delays in communication and social interaction; therefore, these individuals are less likely to get comfortable with social interaction despite the severity of the clinical condition.

The individuals diagnosed with an intellectual impairment are also at an increased risk of experiencing health disparities; therefore, these individuals are at risk of experiencing multiple comorbidities (Sechi et al., 2016). For this reason, the number of visits of these patients to the clinics and hospitals is more than to other individuals (Carulla et al., 2011).

The research conducted by Sheehan et al. (2015)  mentioned that these individuals are at ongoing risk of preventable and premature deaths due to comorbid illness. In this regard, the formation of virtual clinics for individuals living with intellectual disabilities contributes to carrying out routine analyses of the clinical conditions of these patients. The healthcare professionals caring for the intellectually disabled population via virtual clinics immediately refer these patients in case of deterioration in the health of these patients.

The Significance of Nurse-Led Virtual Clinics for Intellectually Disabled Population

The nurse-led virtual clinics within the UK have been recognised for their advanced practices, including the detailed physiological assessment of the patient, practical and subsequent care planning, and treatment delivery to the individuals (Macdonald et al., 2018). In addition, the nurse-led virtual clinics within the UK effectively monitor the patient’s conditions, manage the medication, and carry out further referral of the patients (Healey et al., 2016).

The nursing professionals leading the virtual clinics also carry out the medicine management by utilising the patient group directions (PGDs) or by independent and supplementary nurse prescribing.

Numerous researches analysing the role of nurses in dealing with individuals with intellectual disabilities demonstrated that the lack of experience and the clinical expertise of the nursing professionals contribute to negative attitudes of nurses towards the patients having special care needs(Marks and Sisirak, 2017). In this regard, the nurses dealing with individuals possessing intellectual disabilities are required to keep experience and expertise for carrying out a virtual assessment of the intellectually disabled individuals (Wang et al., 2018).

Some of the educational institutes providing nursing programs possess specific courses for dealing with the requirements of the intellectually disabled population. For this reason, the nursing professionals possessing the idea of the assistance required to the healthcare professionals are likely to contribute to dealing with the comorbid illnesses of the intellectually disabled population.

Some of the researchers analysed the patients’ satisfaction levels with the nurse-led clinical assessment. The outcomes of these researches revealed that the patient satisfaction levels were high within the nurse-led clinics (Healy et al., 2018). In addition, Cubbin and Brada (2018) mentioned that the nurse-led assessment within virtual clinics had also been strongly associated with different aspects of care and service delivery.

The service users prefer virtual clinics due to shorter waiting times, better coordination between the patients and the healthcare professionals, constant follow-up of the appropriateness of medications, and continuous analysis of the impacts of these medications on the health outcomes of the patients (Frankland et al., 2017).

The nurse-led virtual clinics are more effective in forming therapeutic relationships between the nurses and the patients.  The individuals living with intellectual disabilities and their informal care providers are capable of immediately acquiring support from the healthcare professionals even for a slight deterioration in the health of these patients (Macdonald et al. 2018).

Nursing professionals have effective counseling skills; therefore, these professionals can communicate with the patients in better ways. In this regard, the nurse-led virtual clinics allow the patients and their family members to present their concerns in a relaxed atmosphere without experiencing long waiting hours.

Specifically considering individuals having special care needs, the nurse-led virtual clinics are also beneficial for the nursing professionals, allowing them to carry out analysis of the patients’ health issues (Carulla et al., 2011). In addition, the treatment carried out by the nursing professionals via virtual clinics allows nursing professionals to take more time in understanding the complex needs of the patients.

Within the nurse-led virtual clinics, the nursing professionals deal with one patient at a time. The allocation of the appropriate time to the patient is likely to assist nursing professionals in carrying out an in-depth analysis of the patient (Athanasopoulos and Athanasiou, 2016).

Specifically, the intellectually disabled individuals suffer from multiple syndromes at a time; therefore, after carrying out an in-depth analysis of the clinical conditions of the patients, the nursing professionals can make decisions related to referring these patients to the specialist based on the symptoms of patients (Healy et al.2018).

Analysing from the context of the care-related requirements of the intellectually disabled individuals, the nurse-led virtual clinics are also capable of appropriately triage the referrals from outside, such as from the general practitioners, and analysing these patients in a more timely manner. In this regard, the nurse-led virtual clinics are also likely to manage these patients promptly, decrease the waiting time of these patients, and relieve the burden of workload on the healthcare professional (Macdonald et al., 2018).

The outcome of research conducted by McAuliffe, Lami, and Lami (2016) also stated that the nurse-led virtual clinics for individuals with an intellectual disability within the UK are likely to improve populations’ health outcomes.

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