Introduction It has become increasingly recognised that outpatient management is more cost-effective in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). IBD Standards (Revised 2013) recommend telephone advice for patients with regard to symptoms and medication management. This report attempts to quantify the net financial impact of this service at our hospital since it was introduced in August 2013.
Method The Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley (National Health Service, Greater Glasgow and Clyde) is a district general hospital with a catchment population of 200 000 with approximately 2500 patients with IBD. Data relating to the use of the IBD telemedicine service were prospectively recorded on a daily basis for a period of 5 months. We documented reasons for calling and the likely action taken by the patient had the telephone advice line not been available. Cost savings based on alternative outcomes were made in accordance with the Department of Health figures (Department of Health reference costs 2011–2012).
Results The mean number of calls per month was 88 (IQR 24)—(the mean number of calls which were deemed non-IBD issues was 30 calls per month (IQR 8.0)) The mean cost of staffing the IBD advice line with an IBD clinical nurse specialist was £482.00 per month (IQR 195.5). The mean time spent on calls per month was 28.5 h (IQR 11.5). Cost savings over 5 months for avoidance of general practitioner (GP) consultation was £3408.00. Savings for avoidance of a consultant appointment made over the 5-month period was £27 454.00. Savings made from patients avoiding either an accident and emergency (A&E) or a hospital admission were £540.00 and £11 488.00, respectively, over the 5-month period. The net saving was £42 890.00.
Conclusions A nurse-led telephone advice line appears to be a cost-effective intervention. It may prevent patients from unnecessary hospital attendance. Savings can be made to both primary care and secondary care. Overall, it appears that the advice line is providing a highly valuable service not just in terms of accessible treatment decisions and guidance for patients, but cost savings when IBD clinic nurse specialist time is compared with that of GPs, consultants or hospital facilities.
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