BACKGROUND: The COVID-19 pandemic has necessitated significant changes to the manner in which healthcare is delivered. Chief among these has been the need to rapidly adopt virtual, or telephone clinics as a means of reducing unnecessary patient exposure to hospitals and clinical care settings. We were greatly aided in our adoption of virtual clinics by our experience in the establishment and maintenance of a Clinical Nurse Specialist-led, virtual clinic for both abdominal aortic (AAA) and extra-aortic aneurysm (EAA) surveillance within our department since 2016. Patients undergoing surveillance for abdominal aortic aneurysm (AAA) require frequent and lifelong clinical review. Previous studies have shown that post-operative surveillance in particular is critical in prolonging survival in AAA patients and in the early detection of late complications particularly following endovascular repair (EVAR). Poor compliance with EVAR surveillance has been shown to result in worse outcomes.
AIM: The aim of this study was to evaluate the success of a nurse-led virtual clinic programme in terms of the safe management of patients undergoing AAA surveillance in a nurse-led virtual clinic.
RESULTS: Over the course of the 4-year period from 2016 to 2019, 1352 patients were enrolled in the virtual aneurysm surveillance clinic. The majority of patients each year were male, ranging from 78.2% in 2016 to 85.2% in 2017. The majority of patients encountered the service owing to pre-operative surveillance of an AAA, with this group comprising at least 65% of the total cohort of patients each year.Over the course of the 4-year period of the virtual clinic there were 1466 patient encounters. Each ambulatory day care centre (ADCC) attendance normally costs the hospital €149. Therefore, a total saving of €218,434 resulted from this initiative alone. No patient presented as an emergency with a ruptured aneurysm during the time period studied.
CONCLUSION: Patients with AAA can be safely kept under surveillance in a nurse-led virtual clinic. Our experience with this model of care proved to be particularly advantageous during the period of the early COVID-19 pandemic.